Washington man, 47, who started a fatal fire in 1987 when he was 12 years old, pleads guilty to murder
A Washington man pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Thursday after admitting to starting a three-alarm fire at a community college in 1987, when he was 12 years old, in which an experienced firefighter died.
Elmer Nash Jr., now 47, was charged in the fire that destroyed the Everett Community College library and claimed the life of firefighter Gary Parks, 48.
More than 100 firefighters responded to the fire on February 16, 1987 that destroyed the building, and Parks was one of the first to arrive and enter the building.
Parks, an 18-year veteran of the Everett Fire Department, was separated from five other firefighters and was trapped in the blaze and died.
But the case remained cold for three decades until Nash was recognized by cold case detective Mike Atwood when he was jailed on unrelated charges in 2017. Daily Herald reports.
Elmer Nash Jr., 47, pleaded guilty to first degree murder on Thursday for starting a deadly fire with three alarms when he was 12 years old that killed Everett firefighter Gary Parks
Everett firefighter Gary Parks died in response to the Everett Community College fire in 1987
Shortly after the fire, an investigation revealed that the fire was deliberately lit and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms sent a special team to Everett to investigate the arson.
Nash was considered a suspect at the time after investigators found graffiti that blamed him for the fire.
Police questioned him in 1987, but nothing came of it and other leads went nowhere for detectives until the case was picked up again in 2016 by Detective Atwood of the Everett Police Department.
According to the Daily Heralda chance meeting in a police station in April 2017 broke open the cold case.
The 1987 fire reportedly caused millions of dollars in damage to Everett Community College. More than 100 firefighters responded, and Parks was one of the first to enter and enter the building.
While assisting in a separate investigation, Detective Atwood recognized Nash as a suspect in the 1987 fire at a booking desk at the Snohomish County Jail.
When he approached Nash for a discussion, the career criminal brought up the Everett Community College fire.
Nash agreed to speak with Atwood and the detective met him at the local prison the next day.
While interviewing fellow Detective Karen Kowalchyk, Nash asked what the statute of limitations would be for someone who started the fire in 1987.
During questioning, Nash placed himself on the roof of the library on the night of the fire and suggested that matches be used to start the fire.
Nash told Detective Kowalchyk that he was on the roof of the library that night because he and two friends had been broken into hoping to find something to steal.
Nash told Detective Kowalchyk that the fire had started to destroy evidence of their fingerprints on the spot.
According to a pronunciation from the city of Everett, Nash eventually confessed to causing the deadly fire and told the detectives that he had no intention of hurting anyone.
Detectives also interviewed people to whom Nash confessed to starting the fire.
During the fighting, the 1987 firefighters’ parks were separated from five other firefighters, became trapped in the blaze and died. A memorial of a firefighter’s helmet and jacket now stands at Everett Community College
According to UPI reports, Stan Horton, the Everett Community College library director at the time, said fire caused millions of dollars in damage, devastating 50,000 books, 20,000 magazines and hundreds of student records.
A memorial of a firefighter’s helmet and jacket now stands at Everett Community College.
More than 30 years after the arson that claimed her husband’s life, Parks widow Kathy expressed her gratitude for the breakthrough in the case.
“Gary was a good man, a trusted partner and friend you could always count on,” she said.
“We are so grateful to the detectives for never giving up on this case. Our family will always suffer knowing that Gary has not reaped the fruits of his life, grandchildren, the successes of daughters and a wife who will cherish him forever. ‘
During plea negotiations, the prosecution and defense agreed to recommend a sentence to Nash that is less than the standard one.
Defense attorney Philip Sayles said Nash understands that the judge does not need to heed the recommendation. His standard sentence range as an adult would be 34 to 45 years in prison.