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Williamsburg man pleads no contest in series of arsons

Jimmy LaRoue
Contact Reporterjlarouejr@vagazette.com

A Williamsburg man pleaded no contest to two counts of arson and an additional charge of obtaining money by false pretenses Monday in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court.

In exchange for his plea, Dennis Wade Tooley, 45, pleaded no contest to two charges of arson in an unoccupied dwelling — one of the two charges had been arson in an occupied dwelling.

Tooley could get up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine for the arson conviction and up to 20 years in prison and a $2,500 fine on the conviction for obtaining money by false pretenses.

Tooley set three fires to the attached garage of his mother’s home at 214 Thomas Nelson Drive — on Nov. 1, 2016, July 10, 2017 and Nov. 24, 2017 — according to evidence presented by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Cathy Black.

Black said Tooley initially told police that either his brother or his nephew had set the Nov. 1, 2016, fire. At the time, Tooley was a witness in a case against his nephew, Black said.

After the July 10, 2017, fire, Tooley admitted to starting the 2016 fire, saying he did not want to hurt anyone but he wanted the insurance money, Black said.

While out on bond, Tooley set the third fire to the attached garage on Nov. 24, 2017, and said again that either his brother or nephew had set the fire, saying both were out to get him, Black said.

However, a certificate of analysis indicated that kerosene was found on Tooley’s right and left boots following the third fire, Black said, and that the third fire was identical in nature to the first two. And, Black said alarm company records show that the doors to the garage were open and shut about 11 minutes before the start of the fire.

During each of the three fires, it was just Tooley and his mother, Lorraine, who were home, Black said.

Tooley’s pre-sentencing report will be presented at a 9 a.m. July 25 hearing in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court.

LaRoue can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342, by email at jlarouejr@vagazette.com or on Twitter @jlaroue.

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