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SNOWMOBILE – Two Indicted for Nelson’s Speed Shop Fire

November 17, 2004
Filed under Features

Three years and six days after Nelson’s Speed Shop Inc., Greenville, Mich., burned to the ground, owner Jack Nelson can have closure as two men were indicted for arson of the dealership on September 23.
“Although everything is not completely done, we can at least put some things behind us and move on,” Nelson said.
The fire did more than $2.5 million in damage to the dealership, including damage to the building and recreational vehicles stored on the property. A firefighter was also injured in the blaze. Nelson’s Speed Shop sells Yamaha, Polaris, Ski-Doo, Arctic Cat, John Deere and other lawn and garden lines. It’s one of the largest-volume dealerships in the U.S.
“We lost everything,” Nelson said. “Everything went totally to the ground.”
Richard Charles Crew, 53, of Durand, Mich., and Steward David Barron, 53, who’s currently in a prison at Michigan’s Thumb Correctional Facility for an unrelated crime, have each been indicted with one count of conspiracy to commit arson and once count of arson to a commercial building.
According to the indictment, Crew was employed at Tom’s Cycle, a competing dealership in St. Johns, Mich., owned by Thomas Klein. In August or September, 2001, Crew told friend Richard Roberston that he would be willing to pay $10,000 to have someone burn down Nelson’s. Robertson then contacted his acquaintance, Barron, and arranged for the arson.
With a $1,000 down payment from Crew, Barron was told by Robertson to have the business “burned to the ground” as soon as possible. Robertson and Barron discussed methods of arson, including the form eventually used: a propane gas tank. In the early morning hours of September 17, 2001, Barron used propane gas tank to set fire to Nelson’s. The blaze caused an estimated $2.5 million in damages.
The indictment concludes that some time after the arson, Klein gave Crew $10,000 to pay for the arson. Crew split the money with Robertson, who gave some of his cut to Barron.
Neither Klein nor Robertson have been charged in the case. Barron and Crew each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison for conspiracy and 40 years for arson and fines of $500,000.
Nelson has rebuilt on the same location, and now has 32 employees in a 45,000 square-foot building. It’s nearly double the size of the old building.
“It’s been a very, very tough mountain to climb,” Nelson said. “But our customers have stuck with us and it’s nice it’s getting over with.”

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