Federal grand jury indicts Athens man accused of setting fire to water department

Federal grand jury indicts Athens man accused of setting fire to water department
Brandon Blake Neeley, 18 (Source: Henderson Co Sheriff's Office)

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A federal grand jury in Tyler returned an indictment this week charging an Athens man with arson.

According to court documents, Brandon Blake Neeley, 19, of Athens, was arrested on Oct. 5, 2020 as he attempted to leave the scene of a fire at the Dogwood Estates Water Company Pump No. 2 building. Four days earlier, on Oct. 1, another building belonging to Dogwood Estates that housed Pump No. 4, was also set ablaze. Dogwood Estates Water Company serves more than 400 Athens-area homes. After both Pump No. 2 and Pump No. 4 were destroyed, Dogwood was forced to use a backup pump not designed to bear the full load of customer demands. Customers have been asked to limit their water usage until the burned pumps can be repaired or replaced. The two fires caused more than $200,000 in damage.

Previous reporting by KLTV noted that Neely allegedly confessed to these acts after being arrested by the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department.

“The destruction of the Dogwood Estates Pumps threatened water access for numerous Athens residents who rely on the pumping station to go about their daily lives,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei. “Protection of our nation’s critical infrastructure from criminals vandals, and saboteurs is a top priority for federal, state, and local law enforcement, and these charges demonstrate that.”

Neeley is charged with arson of property used in interstate commerce. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the case.

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