By Jeff Lehr
Just hours after Timothy A. Elsey allegedly torched his estranged wife’s home in Joplin, killing her pet cats and guinea pig, he sent some seemingly taunting text messages to her.
“The pain has just started,” one message began, according to police.
“Who or what is next? I watched the whole time never ran. R they trackin me yet?”
Detective Trevor Duncan of the Joplin Police Department said Thursday that, as a matter of fact, investigators already were onto the 40-year-old husband as a suspect in the fire at 1:35 p.m. Monday that destroyed his wife’s home.
Adrienne Elsey let police know when she started receiving the text messages, and investigators were with her as others came in on her cell phone Monday night, Duncan said.
“They were all sent that evening, approximately between 4 p.m. and 12 midnight,” the detective said.
But investigators were unable to locate the suspect until about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, when he was spotted walking down Fourth Street near Ewert Park. A chase ensued that ended with Elsey’s apprehension in a ditch in the 500 block of South Kentucky Avenue.
Elsey was charged Thursday by the Jasper County prosecutor’s office with second-degree arson and second-degree burglary. He remains in custody at the Jasper County Jail, with bond set at $25,000.
Firefighters deemed the house fire suspicious from the start. A window in a locked door had been broken, apparently to allow someone to enter the home. There was other evidence that the fire had been set, according to the Joplin police and fire departments.
Adrienne Elsey had locked her home and left for work about 15 minutes before the fire was reported. A probable-cause affidavit alleges that her husband broke the window to get inside, then stacked clothes in a bedroom and set them on fire. His wife’s two cats and a guinea pig died in the fire, according to the affidavit.
“Based on statements, there is reason to believe he was in the area (as the house burned),” Duncan said with respect to the defendant’s claim to have watched the fire.
The affidavit states that Elsey’s wife was not the only recipient of incriminating text messages. Timothy Elsey also exchanged messages with her friend Anna Huffhines, the document says.
“Look at what I did and ask me how I went over the deep end,” he messaged Huffhines, according to the affidavit.
She replied: “R u saying u burned the house?”
Elsey: “Yes that’s what i am saying.”
The fire destroyed much of the home’s contents and forced Adrienne Elsey to seek other accommodations. She was renting the house.
Duncan said he does not know how long the couple have been separated or where the husband has been living most recently. Court records show an address for Timothy Elsey in Girard, Kan., which Duncan said he believes is the home of the defendant’s parents.
Adrienne Elsey and Huffhines could not be reached for comment Thursday.
‘Pain’ as motive
After his arrest, Timothy A. Elsey reportedly told a police detective that he set his estranged wife’s home on fire because he wanted to destroy her belongings and to “cause pain.”
<img src="http://www.joplinglobeonline.com/images/zope/extra.gif" border=0>Estranged husband accused of burning wife’s home<font color="#ff0000"> w/ charges and probable-cause affidavit </font>
By Jeff Lehr
- Joplin Metro
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