Official: Teen confesses to six fires, claims he set others

NEW ROADS—The 19-year-old man arrested in a rash of suspicious fires in several neighborhoods along La. 10 admitted to setting six fires and as many as a dozen more in the New Roads area, an official with the State Fire Marshal’s Office said Thursday.

Nicholas Powell, 1314 Richey St., was booked Thursday on four counts of simple arson and one count of aggravated arson, Deputy Chief Brant Thompson said.

Thompson said authorities on will seek warrants Friday on seven additional counts of simple arson for fires dating as far back as 2010 in the New Roads area.

Powell was booked into the Pointe Coupee Parish Jail on two counts of simple arson Wednesday afternoon. The arrest came just eight hours after state and local authorities launched their investigation into seven suspicious fires — one of which was later determined to be accidental and not arson — that took place Tuesday and early Wednesday. Thompson said most of the other fires were in abandoned structures.

Authorities said Powell is being held in the parish jail without bond.

Five of the seven structures were abandoned homes or trailers and two were occupied dwellings. No injuries were reported in any of the fires.

“This was a dangerous young man,” Thompson said. “There were no injuries or lives lost, but this could have been much worse.”

Powell told authorities Thursday he has been setting fires since he was kid because it gives him gratification. “He particularly described it as a euphoric feeling; as if he’s high on drugs,” Thompson said. “Based on his statements he’s had this compulsion and experienced this since he was a young man. He has an inability to control the impulse to set fires.”

Thompson said the state fire marshal’s investigation into Powell’s criminal history will continue in Baton Rouge, where he said Powell lived for 12 years.

“There were some fires in Baton Rouge he told police about as well,” he added.

Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff Bud Torres had said Wednesday there could be additional arrests connected to the investigation.

But on Thursday, the sheriff said authorities believe only Powell was responsible for the string of fires based on his statements to investigators.

“Our objective was to get the main person responsible for these acts,” Torres said. “The other people hanging around Powell during all of this were not active participants, therefore we’re not seeking charges on them. They didn’t realize he was going to do that.”