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Duluth teen arraigned on three additional fire charges

Cody Lee Walker-Nelson

A man Duluth police are calling a serial arsonist was arraigned Wednesday on three new fire-related charges.

Cody Lee Walker-Nelson, 18, is charged with third-degree arson, fifth-degree arson and with falsely making an emergency call to police, all arising from recent incidents in the East Hillside neighborhood.

Walker-Nelson was released from jail in June after serving four months for a January garage fire in East Hillside. He was suspected of a string of fires going back to October and was on probation at the time of the most recent alleged arsons.

The current criminal complaint states that Walker-Nelson is a convicted arsonist "who has little to no regard for public safety.''

According to the complaint, Duluth firefighters and police were dispatched about 3 a.m. Aug. 10 to a fire in a garbage container in the alley behind 1023 E. Second St. About 40 minutes later, another fire was reported in the bed of a Ford Ranger pickup truck where camping gear, clothing and paper were burning in the parking lot of 932 E. Third St.

The vehicle owner put out the fire with a chemical extinguisher. He and his girlfriend then saw a man wearing a white T-shirt, shorts and white socks standing near the truck, holding a white bottle and acting suspicious. The suspect ducked, and when he stood up, he no longer had the bottle. He fled the scene. The truck owner later picked Walker-Nelson from a photo lineup as the person he had seen.

Officer Kelly Greenwalt and K-9 dog Reggo tracked the suspect from the scene. The officer said the fact that the suspect wasn't wearing shoes made it easier to track him to an apartment. Walker-Nelson was found and was sweaty and extremely nervous, police said. He said that he didn't start any fires.

About a week later, 1:30 a.m. Aug. 16, police dispatch received a call from someone who said there was a fire in the alley behind 1610 E. Fifth St. and hung up. Firefighters and police responded, but there was no fire. Police arson investigator Todd Kuusisto listened to a recording of the call and recognized Walker-Nelson's voice after having numerous contacts with him. Kuusisto connected the phone number with Walker-Nelson's grandmother, who identified her grandson as the person making the false alarm.

Walker-Nelson was arrested without incident Saturday by Owatonna, Minn., police on a warrant filed in St. Louis County District Court. He is being held in the St. Louis County Jail. Judge Shaun Floerke set bail at $100,000.