County deputies arrested and charged Timothy Dewitt Nicholson, 40, of Jacksonville, with burglary and criminal mischief regarding the damage at the old Duke School on Alabama 204.
Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Matthew Wade said deputies were alerted to a fire in the area around 5:30 a.m. Upon arrival, they discovered two Ford vans outside the school, now owned by the Calhoun County Mental Health Board, had been set on fire with nearby gas cans.
After the flames were extinguished, deputies discovered a window at the school had been broken and several tools were missing. A John Deere tractor had also been stolen from the site, but was found a short distance away. Blood stains were found on the gas cans, in the school and in one of the vans.
A search of the surrounding area led deputies to Nicholson, who had a cut on his hand at the time of his arrest.
Wade said Nicholson had been in an argument with his girlfriend while driving east on Alabama 204 toward Jacksonville. After a heated exchange, she kicked him out of the car near the school.
Micky Turner, the director of the Calhoun County Mental Health Board, said the vans were used to transport developmentally disabled residents to the facility. The two vans that caught fire will need to be replaced, but a third van received only minimal damage, he said.
“It’s a very sad thing for him to do that, knowing the kind of people we serve,” Turner said. “It’s going to put stress on the transportation and we’ll have to make other arrangements.”
A motive for the crime had not been established Friday by the Sheriff’s Office.
Wade said the blood stains at the crime scene will be sent to forensics for testing, and it’s possible Nicholson could face more charges.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.