Elkhart man who admitted to causing Cornerstone Apartments fire sentenced

John Nellist pleaded guilty to dealing in methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a family housing complex. 

Posted on March 6, 2014 at 8:07 p.m.

GOSHEN — An Elkhart man who admitted to starting a fire in downtown Elkhart while he attempted to manufacture methamphetamine was sentenced Thursday at Elkhart Circuit Court.

John Nellist, 32, pleaded guilty to dealing in methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a family housing complex.

He was sentenced to 35 years in prison, with eight years suspended and on probation.

Nellist was arrested in July 2013, for his connection with a fire that started in an apartment on the sixth floor of Cornerstone Apartments on May 8.

According to the probable cause affidavit for Nellist’s arrest, police and fire units were called at about 4:30 a.m. to apartment 616 in reference to an apartment fire.

Firefighters told police that a meth lab may have caused the fire.

Police interviewed the apartment tenant, who said Nellist had stopped by the apartment the evening before the fire. The tenant told police that Nellist had arrived carrying a suitcase, and that he left Nellist at his apartment to go see a friend.

When Nellist was interviewed, he said he had visited a friend at Cornerstone Apartments and that the two were "doing drugs." But Nellist denied manufacturing meth.

Officers noticed burn marks on Nellist's hands, and he explained he got burned with gasoline but was unable to provide specifics.

Nellist later admitted he was in the apartment when the fire started.

Follow Elkhart Truth Reporter Sharon Hernandez on Twitter @Sharon_HT.

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