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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jury Convicts Columbia Man of Two Arsons


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Columbia, Mo., man was convicted in federal court today for two arsons that damaged a building on the Stephens College campus in Columbia and the Ellis Library at the University of Missouri–Columbia.

Christopher Curtis Kelley, 27, of Columbia, was found guilty of both counts contained in a June 27, 2012 federal indictment.

Evidence presented during the trial indicated that Kelley deliberately set fires at 10 different locations inside the Ellis Library, which is the main library at the University of Missouri, at approximately 3:30 a.m. on Sept. 10, 2011. Some of the fires didn’t take or caused minimal damage, while other fires caused significant damage. Kelley also vandalized property at the library, including computer monitors, security cameras and windows. Human feces and urine were found on top of one of the study desks. The overall cost to repair the damage to the library was estimated between $750,000 and $1 million.

Photos taken from the library’s security cameras were distributed to the media and the college community. Law enforcement officials received several telephone calls in response from individuals who identified Kelley. At about noon on the same day as the arson, Kelley turned himself in to the University of Missouri Police Department.

During the investigation into the Ellis Library arson, law enforcement officers recovered stolen computer equipment at Kelley’s residence that had been taken from Stephens College during an earlier arson on that campus.

Kelley was also convicted today of starting a fire in a classroom of the Audrey Webb Child Study Center on the Stephens College campus at approximately 4 a.m. on May 18, 2011. Firefighters responded to a small fire inside a classroom and heavy smoke in the building. There was moderate smoke damage in the basement area directly below the classroom.

Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, Mo., deliberated for two hours before returning the guilty verdict to U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips, ending a trial that began Monday, April 22, 2013.

Under federal statutes, Kelley is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison without parole on each of the two counts, up to 40 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Lynn. It was investigated by the University of Missouri Police Department, the Columbia, Mo., Police Department, the Columbia, Mo., Fire Department, the Stephens College Security Department, the University of Missouri Ellis Library Security Department, the U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Updated January 14, 2015