GOSHEN — A man accused of causing a fire while manufacturing methamphetamine at an apartment building in downtown Elkhart entered a plea agreement Thursday morning, Feb. 6.
John Nellist, 32, pleaded guilty to dealing in methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a family housing complex.
The maximum sentence for the felony is 50 years in prison.
Nellist agreed to a sentence of 35 years in prison, with eight years suspended and on probation.
Nellist was arrested July 12, 2013, following an investigation by the Elkhart Police Department's Drug Unit on a fire that started on the sixth floor of Cornerstone Apartments, 500 S. Main St.
According to the probable cause affidavit for Nellist’s arrest, police and fire units were called at about 4:30 a.m. May 8, 2013, to apartment 616 in response to a fire.
After an investigation in the apartment, firefighters told police that a meth lab may have caused the fire.
The drug unit found items commonly used in meth labs, as well as an off-white powdery substance.
During their investigation, the drug unit interviewed the apartment tenant and Nellist. The apartment tenant told police Nellist stopped by his apartment May 7, 2013, with a suitcase.
Nellist initially denied having manufactured meth. When asked about burn marks on his hands, he told police the burn marks were caused by gasoline, but he did not provide any specific information.
He later admitted he was in the apartment when the fire started.
Nellist's sentencing hearing has been scheduled for March 6.