A man pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder, acknowledging that when he was 12 years old he set a fire in Everett that killed a firefighter.
The Daily Herald reports that Elmer Nash, now 47, is a recently released convict with a long criminal history. According to court documents, Nash over the years repeatedly admitted setting the fire, including during lengthy interviews with Everett police detectives in 2017.
The investigation “reminds us that the flames of justice are not easily extinguished, and that perseverance has a way of rewarding those who choose not to give up,” said Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Cornell.
Firefighter Gary Parks was killed in the Feb. 16, 1987, fire at the Everett Community College library. More than 100 firefighters responded to the large blaze that gutted the structure, and Parks was among the first to arrive and enter the building.
Parks, 48, died when he and five other firefighters were cut off by a wall of flames that flashed up behind them, blocking their retreat. Parks, a fire engine driver, was an 18-year veteran of the department.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms sent a special team to Everett. Agents joined arson investigators from the city’s police and fire departments in combing the ashes for clues.
The fire had started in papers and books piled on the floor near a book drop inside the library.
Nash was among those listed in case files because graffiti surfaced in north Everett, blaming him for the blaze. Police questioned him in 1987, but nothing came of it. He’d once set a couch on fire in his home, according to court papers.
Nash has at least 14 adult felony convictions. In court papers, he’s described as never having held a regular job outside of prison or while on work release.
Through his attorney, Nash said he was voluntarily admitting his guilt.
“This is a well-thought out deal,” defense attorney Philip Sayles told Judge David Kurtz. “It is not something that happened overnight.”
In plea negotiations, the prosecution and defense agreed to recommend a sentence lower than the standard sentencing range. Sayles said Nash understands that the judge does not have to follow the recommendation. Nash’s standard sentencing range as an adult would be 34 to 45 years in prison.
Sentencing is set for May 7.