Man ruled incompetent to stand trial for prior crimes confessed to torching home on Christmas morning

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Arson fire Bel Air VFD Christmas Day 122514

BAVFC personnel, with mutual aid crews from.Fallston and Jarrettsville,  working a house fire on Edwards Manor Dr. in Forest Hill.

Photos Courtesy: Mark Ensor, BAVFC

BEL AIR, MD.  (DECEMBER 25, 2014) Deputy State Fire Marshals have made an arrest of a suspect who had been ruled incompetent to stand trial in a prior criminal case, for the arson of his family home.

Fire Marshals report that the fire took place at about 2:48 am in Forest Hill on Christmas Day.  The Bel Air Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched for a reported dwelling fire located at 2407 Edwards Manor Drive, which is also the address of the suspect. The Harford County Sheriff’s Department also responded to assist.

The fire department arrived on location to find heavy fire conditions on both the first and second floor of the dwelling. One firefighter was injured on the scene when he fell through a heavily fire damaged staircase.

The Harford County Sheriff’s Department detained a male occupant of the dwelling identified as Nicholas M. Lester, 32, after he confessed to Sheriff’s Deputies that he had intentionally started the fire.

  • Evidently Lester managed to master the use of email and two counts of electronic mail harassment were placed against him in District Court in Harford County, Md., on Oct. 4, 2011.
  • Fourteen counts of forgery and theft were placed against Lester on Sept. 21, 2011 in Harford County District Court but were listed as inactive, due to “mental incompetency”, according to court records.
  • On Oct. 16, 2010, Lester was charged with assault and attempting to disarm a police officer in Harford County District Court but the charges were dropped by the States Attorney on Nov. 16, 2010.
  • On May 13, 2007, Lester was charged with burglary and the charges were placed on the stet docket on July 18, 2007.
  • On Jan. 28, 2007, Lester was charged with disorderly conduct in Harford District Court. The charges were put on the stet docket on May 14, 2007.

Lester evidently is out of control but the decision by officials to drop criminal charges in the past kept him residing at the Edwards Manor residence. Ironically, his alleged arson of the premises will result in someone finding another place for him to live.

Deputy State Fire Marshals were called to the scene to conduct the investigation. Lester also confessed to Fire Investigators after waiving his Miranda Rights. Lester was taken into custody without incident and has been charged with 1st and 2nd Degree Arson, three counts of 1st Degree Attempted Murder, four counts of Reckless Endangerment and 1st and 2nd Degree Malicious Burning.

In view of the prior incidents of crime being judged as inactive due to incompetency, it is unlikely his confession to the arson fire will hold up in court.

The fire marshal reports that at the time of the fire, a basement apartment was occupied by two adults and one child.

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