Arson suspect in custody

News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Police have arrested 46 year old Brien O’Neill Kelly of West Jordan suspected of being responsible for setting over a dozen brush fires throughout Salt Lake and Utah Counties.  He is facing 12 counts of felony arson.

Kelly was arrested Thursday evening following an extensive investigation requiring efforts from multiple agencies including fire and police. 

“We really want to stress what a group effort this was to get to a resolution,” said Matthew McFarland with Unified Fire Authority.  ” This included Unified Fire Authority, West Jordan Fire, West Jordan Police, Unified Police Department., Salt Lake City Fire Department, Salt Lake City Police Department, Draper PD, Lehi Fire and Police, the state fire marshals office, ATF, and the DA’s office as well as others.”

According to authorities, Kelly had been on investigators radar for quite sometime.

“This individual was known to be out in locations and through investigative work we were able to determine that he was the suspect,” says West Jordan Deputy Chief Reed Scharman. 

According to the probable cause statement the first fires were set in the Rose Canyon area on July 15, 2016.  Three fires were set totaling about $2,000 in damage. 

On August 8th, the arsonist was responsible for setting 4 fields on fire in the Bluffdale/Saratoga Springs area.  Each of these fires were set near roads and burned about 5 acres coming within 50 feet of homes.  The probable cause statement states Kelly was at the scene and alerted an officer to the second of the four fires.  It also states he ‘blurted’ to a detective “that he was going to jail without any indication that he was a suspect.”

Another witness stated in the probable cause that she saw Kelly in a white box truck “sitting on the side of the canal road prior to any signs of fire and identified him in a lineup.” 

Three more field fires were set in West Jordan on August 15th, near 9200 S, 5600 W, South U-111, and 6600 W. Crimson Dr.  At the fires several wooden matches were found at the area of origin.  Again, each fire was set in close proximity to the road and Kelly’s blue Toyota Scion was seen on surveillance video near the source of the fires.

On August 21st, three field fires were set in the Rose Canyon Road area in the same area where the July 15th fires were started.  2 acres were burned by these fires and the estimated cost of the damage was around $1,500. The fire also came within 40 yards of homes and 20 yards of outbuildings.  Several homeowners evacuated their homes over safety concerns and one witness stated seeing a suspicious blue car, similar to Kelly’s, screech its tires and leave the scene.  The probable cause statement also states several homeowners risked their safety to help put out the flames.

“Fires in fields can start from a number of different causes and they occur throughout a broad region of the valley.  So, one they have to have a commonality and then two, you have to look for somebody trying to start them,” says Scharman.

One witness was able to provide investigators with surveillance footage showing a blue Toyota Scion with a male occupant wearing a white t-shirt in the area minutes before the fires started.  Another witness also provided investigators with surveillance video showing the same man in the same car near the area, according to the probable cause statement. 

Shortly after those fires, two field fires were started in Lehi.  Again, all within close proximity of the roads and these two had evidence of wooden matches near the origin similar to the ones found in the West Jordan fires. 

The statement states, about an hour after those fires, Kelly was admitted to Jordan Valley Hospital wearing a white t-shirt.  Kelly provided an account of his whereabouts, post-Miranda, but his statements contradicted what witnesses and surveillance video showed — and confirmed — was indeed Kelly at the sites and not where he had initially told police. 

According to the probable cause statement, data collected from Kelly’s phone from August 21st and July 15th, also proved that Kelly was indeed in the area of the fires at the times that they were set. 

Kelly is currently sitting in the Salt Lake County Jail on a $100,000 bond.  Investigators say they’re still looking for a motive.

“These twelve counts look at someone who put a lot of people at risk and who definitely needed to be stopped,” said Scharman.

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