Columbia man found guilty of 2011 Ellis Library arson

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 | 2:00 p.m. CDT; updated 4:12 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 24, 2013
This file photo taken Sept. 10, 2011, shows ruined carpet strewn on the sidewalk outside Ellis Library.

COLUMBIA — A federal jury found Christopher Kelley guilty of arson Wednesday for setting fire to MU’s Ellis Library and a Stephens College building in 2011.

The jury deliberated for two hours and 20 minutes before declaring him guilty of two counts of arson, according to minutes of the trial. His conviction follows a three-day trial in the Missouri Western District Court in Jefferson City.

Kelley, 27, could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count, according to his federal indictment.

Kelley had pleaded not guilty, despite being identified by video surveillance and later confessing to his friends.

Firefighters found 10 separate fires burning on the main floor of Ellis Library on Sept.10, 2011. No one was injured, but the arson damaged the library’s circulation area and left it closed for several days. The cost to repair the damage was estimated at between $750,000 and $1 million, according to a release from the Kansas City U.S. Attorney's office.

The State Historical Society of Missouri, which is housed in the building, sustained water damage. Responders also found damage to computer screens, broken windows and fecal matter on a table on the fourth floor.

They found a note: “Welcome the bunghole, we’ve got fun and games.” A court document states Kelley’s handwriting matched that on the note.

"The combination of the video and fire alarm systems show that Chris Kelley was in the back circulation room when as many as eight separate fires were set," a court document filed by his attorney, federal public defender Troy Stabenow, stated.

Kelley turned himself into MU police after the department issued a Clery release. He was working for the department at the time as a part-time events assistant, according to previous Missourian reporting.

Kelley was also found guilty of setting fire to the Audrey Webb Child Study Center on the Stephens College campus in May 2011.

Kelley reportedly broke into a computer lab and set fire to a box under a table. He is also suspected of stealing a Mac mini computer from the lab.

Supervising editor is Richard Webner.

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