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NGI plea expected in school arson case

The man accused of setting fire to a Roberts school will likely enter a not guilty by reason of insanity plea, said his attorney Monday (May 13).

During a brief hearing Monday afternoon, St. Croix County Judge Eric Lundell found probable cause to believe that a felony was committed and probable cause that Justin Walter Nelson, 24, Roberts, committed the crime and bound him over for trial.

Nelson's attorney didn't object to the bail set May 3, and it will remain at $100,000 cash.

Investigator Brent Standaert, the lone witness at the hearing, testified that Nelson admitted during an interview that he was in St. Croix Central Elementary School on April 30 and stole cameras from classrooms.

Standaert also said that during a call recorded on a jail phone, Nelson said he had probably set fires in the school to prevent police from discovering the thefts. The investigator agreed that Nelson hadn't directly said he started the fires but that was implied.

Attorney Daniel Chapman said he expects his client to offer a NGI plea at some point.

Arraignment is set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday, May 30.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.