Montana Arsonist Tried to Frame Detective

August 4, 2014

A 55-year-old Billings man is facing charges after police say he started a fire at his parents’ home by throwing a Molotov cocktail at it and then tried to frame a sheriff’s detective.

The Billings Gazette reports that Lionel Scott Ellison on Friday appeared in Yellowstone County Justice Court where he’s charged with arson and two counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. Bond was set at $20,000.

Ellison is already serving a three-year prison sentence ordered in April 2013 for violating his probation after being convicted of setting his ex-girlfriend’s car on fire in 2007. He was released on parole in January.

Police said Ellison threw a firebomb against the side of his parents’ house in March 2013 and tried to frame Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Det. Frank Fritz. Authorities say Fritz had worked on previous investigations involving Ellison.

The doors of the house had been tied with rope from the outside at the time of the fire. Investigators said they found rope and a knife with the name “Fritz” written on it, and that Ellison told them he had a “hunch” as to who set the fire.

But DNA evidence found on the rope used to tie the doors shut linked it to Ellison. Also, according to court records, Fritz was working with other officers for several hours on a different incident at the time of the fire.

Police also said that Ellison didn’t have any injuries to his right hand, even though he said he used it to punch out glass in the kitchen door and then used a knife to cut the rope keeping the door shut.

It’s not clear why charges from last year’s fire are just being filed now. The Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office didn’t return a call from The Associated Press on Saturday.

In previous encounters with law enforcement in the region, Ellison told Park County authorities in July 2010 that he had been kidnapped. Investigators determined it was a hoax. At the time, Ellison faced sentencing for violating a protective order.

In May 2008, Ellison was found bound on the banks of the Yellowstone River a day before he was scheduled to be sentenced for the 2007 arson case. Ellison reported he was kidnapped and thrown in the water.

It’s not clear if Ellison has an attorney. The Yellowstone County Public Defender’s Office didn’t return a call from The Associated Press on Saturday.

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