Laurel man denies charges for home invasion assault, attempted arson

2013-08-20T14:34:00Z 2013-08-21T15:10:07Z Laurel man denies charges for home invasion assault, attempted arsonGazette Staff The Billings Gazette

A Laurel man accused of breaking into a home, assaulting an elderly man and trying to set the house afire was arraigned Tuesday in Yellowstone County District Court.

Adam Scott Nelson, 25, appeared before Judge Gregory Todd by video from the county jail and pleaded not guilty to felony charges of aggravated assault, aggravated burglary, robbery and attempted arson.

Nelson also denied a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief. His bond was set at $12,000.

Prosecutors said DNA evidence links Nelson to the Dec. 8 attack on a 75-year-old man at his Laurel residence. The evidence includes blood from the victim found on Nelson's shoes, court records state.

In 2011, the elderly man allowed Nelson and his family to live in his residence because they had been living in their vehicle.

Some time later, the man's family removed Nelson and the others from the home because they felt the family was taking advantage of the victim.

In March 2012, Nelson was charged with stealing the man's vehicle. Nelson was later convicted of a misdemeanor offense for that crime, prosecutors said.

The new charges allege that Nelson broke into the man's residence at about 2:20 a.m. The victim said he awoke to a man punching and hitting him in the face and body, and he recognized Nelson as the attacker.

During the attack, the victim said, Nelson threw fluid on him.

Prosecutors said Nelson was apparently trying to set the man on fire with oil from a decorative torch that had been used to set fire to an exterior wall. The fire blackened the wall before going out.

The victim also said his wallet containing $180 cash was stolen.

Officers said they found numerous boot prints in the snow around the house that were later matched to the boots worn by Nelson. 

While investigating the scene, officers also discovered that the word "Hell" had been scratched into the victim's vehicle.

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