54-year-old Nikki Joly, an LGBT rights activist, burned down his own house reportedly because he was annoyed there was no prejudice for him to campaign against.
Joly is accused of faking the August 2017 house fire – which killed his two German Shepherds and three cats – because he’d been left bored after the passage of a nondiscrimination law in Jackson, Michigan, where he lives.
Two church officials who worked with Joly told police he had been disappointed the Jackson Pride Parade, held five days before the fire, hadn’t received more attention or protests.
According to officer Aaron Grove, who interviewed the church officials – Barbara Shelton and Bobby James – they described Joly as ‘very deceptive’ and as having ‘layers of manipulation.’
Reports say that when asked by police about a possible motive for the fire, it was then Barbara Shelton and Bobby James apparently said that Joly was disappointed the Jackson Pride Parade and Festival hadn’t received more attention or protests.
But when contacted by a Detroit news reporter, Bobby James declined to comment, and Shelton “quibbled with the way police characterized her remarks, saying she had no idea if Joly was frustrated by the lack of controversy.”
“Not sure I said that,” she wrote in an email. “I have no idea about anything, never heard Nikki comment in any fashion about anything like that.”
Joly, a transgender man, had married girlfriend Chris Moore shortly before the fire, which prompted a $58,000 fundraising effort for the couple.
Joly took to social media two days after telling supporters: ‘Yes, be angry, be very angry.
‘Use that anger to force good! Use that anger to make change.’
Authorities later determined the fire was intentionally set finding traces of gasoline in five rooms on the first floor of the two-story, wooden-frame house, according to the police report. The investigation then took a different direction after they discovered Joly had purchased $10 of gas at a local Marathon store on the morning of the fire.
Joly said on the morning of the fire, he purchased $10 of gas at a Marathon station so he could cut his grass. He said he began to mow, but it got too hot so he stopped with the backyard only half done.
He went to work at the church and got a call from Moore at 1:02 p.m., said the report. Moore had forgotten to pack her lunch so asked Joly to bring it to her at work. The couple share one car.
Joly then returned home, which was two miles away, went inside the house for a minute or two, and left, he told police.
The fire was reported by neighbors at 1:16 p.m.
The sequence of events would have made it difficult for anyone but Joly to set the fire, Officer Grove said in the police report.
“The timeline shows a window of
Joly told an insurance company investigator the arsonist must have been in the home at the same time he was, according to the report.
Lab tests found traces of gasoline on the clothes Joly was wearing on the day of the fire, according to the report.
Joly made his first appearance in court earlier this month and denied setting the fire deliberately.
A hearing to file motions in the case is scheduled for March 8 in Jackson County Circuit Court.
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