Friday, January 27, 2023

Police arrest man they say set his own house on fire 3 times

Dennis Wade Tooley, 45 (Courtesy VPRJ)
Dennis Wade Tooley, 45 (Courtesy VPRJ)

Williamsburg Police have charged a 45-year-old city resident with arson for a third time after he allegedly set fire to his house early Friday morning.

Police took Dennis Wade Tooley into custody around 1:30 p.m. Friday in connection with a house fire in the 200 block of Thomas Nelson Lane, according to a Williamsburg Police Department news release.

The fire occurred as Tooley awaits trial on charges of arson and obtaining money by false pretenses. The charges stem from two house fires on Nov. 1, 2016 and July 10.

The Williamsburg Fire Department responded to the house around 2:30 a.m. Friday, Deputy Fire Chief Larry Snyder said.

Crews arrived to find a “significant” fire in the garage, but were able to put it out by 2:56 a.m., he said.

The garage is likely considered a total loss, Snyder said. The residents have been displaced by the fire, and were receiving assistance from the city’s human services and the American Red Cross Friday morning, Snyder said.

By 12:30 p.m., police determined Tooley intentionally set the fire and obtained a warrant for his arrest.

Tooley is charged with arson, the release said. He was taken into custody as his temporary residence, the release said, and was transported to the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail.

Police have had several interactions with Tooley in recent months.

On Oct. 30, police responded to the residence around 1:35 a.m. after Tooley reported someone had lit a garbage bag on fire on his porch, Williamsburg Police Department spokesman Maj. Greg Riley said.

Later that day, around 11 a.m., police returned to the residence after the fire department reported a wooden fence was burning in the backyard. The fire was put out by firefighters, Riley said.

On. Oct 31 around 12:10 a.m., police responded to Tooley’s house again. Tooley reported that three “young males” wearing dark clothing tried to set something in the yard on fire. The men fled before officers arrived on scene.

Tooley is scheduled to appear in the Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court at 9 a.m. Jan. 5 to enter a plea deal on the charges from the first two fires, according to online court records.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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