Although the house has since been razed, money was the prime mover for the March 2015 back-to-back fires on Liberty Street in the Village of Arcade.
| Jody Nelligan
“She lied about the fire under oath when she was actually deposed,” said Wyoming County Assistant District Attorney Vincent Hemming in court transcripts. “This was someone that started a fire in a house, with children in that house, for money.” According to court transcripts dated Feb. 2, Jody Nelligan, 40 of Orchard Park, admitted to the Wyoming County Probation Department of intentionally setting fire to the home to “get the renter’s insurance policy.” Additionally, up until her guilty plea Oct. 27, Nelligan “continuously lied about this fire for a substantial period of time.”
Hemming also noted that Nelligan has no drug or alcohol issue “whatsoever,” but did ask the Court to consider incarceration as part of any probationary sentence.
The matter was seen before Wyoming County Judge Michael Mohun.
On March 23, 2015 a fire broke out in the basement of a Liberty Street home in Arcade. Arcade, Strykersville, Yorkshire, Chaffee-Sardinia, and Harris Corners fire departments were on the scene for three hours, under the direction of Fire Chief in Charge, Arcade Fire Chief Tom Beirsdorf putting out the fire. Standing by at empty stations were Bliss and Sheldon fire departments.
The following day, several surrounding fire companies responded to the home for a second time for a fire that began in a second-floor bedroom closet. Following the fires, Nelligan, another adult, and four children were being assisted by the Red Cross and family members. The four family cats were also saved.
Arcade, Yorkshire, Harris Corners, Bliss, Strykersville, Chaffee-Sardinia, and Sheldon fire companies were on the scene for five hours battling the blaze. They were assisted at the scene by Wyoming County Emergency Services, Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department, Arcade Electric, and the Arcade Police Department. Standing by at empty stations were Bliss and Holland fire departments.
On July 1 of last year, Nelligan was charged with setting both fires – two counts of arson in the second degree, a Class B felony; and two counts of perjury in the first degree, a Class D felony.
In October she had pled guilty and on Feb. 2 she was sentenced.
At the time of her sentencing, Nelligan was facing up to six months in jail and five years probation.
Nelligan’s attorney, Andrew Pace, reiterated to the Court that she has taken full responsibility for the fires. He also quotes a probation officer as saying she is “extremely apologetic, very distraught with what happened, and since we left court at our last appearance, she has taken steps to help remediate what can only be described as a myriad of mental health issues.”
Additionally, she has no criminal record and is working with a mental health counselor weekly, a psychotherapist monthly, and her primary care physician to coordinate all of her medications.
Pace stressed to the Court in his memoranda how “essential it was that we try and get Jody back to her family,” because she is the primary caregiver of not only her four children, but her sickly father and her husband as well.
When Mohun gave Nelligan an opportunity to speak, she again apologized for the fires and told the Court it would not happen “ever again.”
“I am a mom and I have four children,” Nelligan said. “Two of my children are special need children and they need my care daily and I have my father, who I’m a caregiver for. He’s 70 years old and I would really hope that you would impose probation on me and not jail time because I need to be home with my family.”
Mohun then asked the defendant if the family she spoke of was the same family that was in the house when she set fire to it. To which she had said her father was not present at the time of the fires, but her children were.
“And now you’re asking not to put you in jail because you want to be a mother to these children that you put at risk?” Mohun questioned.
Nelligan admitted that it was a “bad choice,” to which Mohun said it was “probably a most horrific choice that anyone could make, let alone a mother.”
Due to the fact that she is working with a counselor and receiving medication for her illness, this gave the judge pause. Mohun noted that if there was no constraint on sentencing, a state prison sentence may have been appropriate.
“You put the lives of your children at risk,” Mohun said. “For what? For money. It’s an extraordinary tale that is told in this prosecution where you put money ahead of your children’s safety. You put them at risk. That is certainly not a motherly instinct.”
With that said, however, Mohun agreed with Pace that she has taken steps to “come clean” and did not think her children should “suffer any more for your criminal behavior.”
“Every day you are with those children is a blessing, and I hope you don’t put them at risk anymore because this is a revocable sentence,” Mohun said.
According to New York Penal Law 60.01 a revocable sentence shall be deemed a tentative one to the extent that it may be altered or revoked in accordance with the provisions of the article under which it was imposed, but for all other purposes shall be deemed to be a final judgment of conviction.
Nelligan was convicted of attempted arson in the third degree and sentenced to five years probation, $26,075.55 in restitution, and fees and surcharges.
See related: Unknown cause sparked the first fire at a Liberty Street home in Arcade; Arsonist responsible for setting two fires at a Liberty Street home, Arcade; An Orchard Park woman pled guilty to setting fire to an Arcade home last year