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Municipal 2018
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‘Good old-fashioned detective work’ led to arrest in suspicious fires case

GUELPH - County councillors recently expressed appreciation to police and fire officials for their year-long investigation into a series of suspicious fires in and around Wellington County.

Though a local man faces charges in relation to the a number of the fires, the investigation is continuing.

Justin Nicholas Johnathon Beal, 28, of Guelph-Eramosa, is charged with six counts of arson for six separate fires that took place between October 2016 and June 2017.

Wellington County OPP and fire services throughout the county responded to suspicious fires dating back to September of 2016. Most of the fires involved abandoned rural homes and buildings in the southern portion of the county. More than 30 fires were deemed suspicious during that time frame.

The Wellington OPP detachment’s November report to the county’s Police Services Board indicates the investigation “continues to involve multiple government organizations, including the municipal fire chiefs of jurisdiction and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office.”

At the Nov. 30 Wellington County council meeting, councillor Chris White thanked investigators for their efforts, noting the fires caused “a lot of worry.

“It was good old-fashioned police detective work that got us where we needed to go,” said White. “They kept us informed. We had various meetings. It was a really big deal in the community. There was a lot of anxiety.”

White added, “I know the investigation is still going on and I wanted to take the opportunity to just thank (investigators for) the diligence and the hard work and the time you folks put in 24-7.”

Warden Dennis Lever said, “I think everybody’s pretty happy that at least charges have been laid.”

Beal was released on bail after a court hearing in Guelph on Oct. 30 and was set to appear in court again on Dec. 5.

Major crimes

The OPP report also notes the Wellington County Major Crime Unit documented 15 new benchmark occurrences in October. This includes six cases of sexual assault, one robbery, one indecent act, one missing person case, one domestic incident, two child pornography cases, two cases of harassment and one mischief investigation.

The unit also continues to work on a hate crime investigation with related occurrences from other jurisdictions. The OPP’s Provincial Anti-Terrorism Unit continues to be involved in the investigation, the report notes.

The Major Crime Unit continues to investigate two cold case files, one unsolved homicide and a domestic death incident. Detectives are still assigned to a Criminal Investigations Branch-led investigation involving criminal negligence causing death.

December 8, 2017

 
 

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