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Arsonist saved by neighbor and grandson

Man charged with first-degree arson


A resident of Villa Drive is in the Pettis County Jail after a Saturday morning arson. 

At 9:40 a.m. Saturday, Pettis County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to a residential structure fire at an apartment on Villa Drive.

John Nevels, 69, was arrested for first-degree arson after Pettis County fire officials alerted State Fire Marshal's arson investigators after finding suspicious items intentionally placed in a “device,” presumably a microwave.

Quick actions by Davion Boggs, 12, and his grandmother, Patty Boggs, are credited with keeping the situation under control. Davion was at the neighbor’s apartment that morning when he heard a noise.

“We were sitting down in the living room talking about what we were going to do today,” Davion said. “There's a bang and then I started smelling burning. A little bit after then I saw smoke come out and so I looked outside, and his apartment was on fire.”

Davion’s instinct was to run to his grandmother.

“I came and got her, and she took off running,” Davion said. “Started banging on the door.”

“I guess he went outside and smelled the smoke and he immediately came over and got me. I'm a nurse,” Patty said. “I, of course, went into action. I went over there, I busted the door and I got a big black puff of smoke and I hollered for John, he said, ‘I'm in the back,’ and I'm like, ‘John come on, you're on fire.’”

Patty suffered a bruised arm hitting the door and was choked by the thick, black smoke. That’s when she heard a confusing statement from inside.

“‘Come on, you know, let's go, let's go,’” Patty called. “And he's like, ‘I'm doing it for the children and everything's barricaded, everything's OK.’”

Patty reached in the door and grabbed Nevels.

“I reached in and grabbed his hand where I got him close enough to see him,” Patty said. “I grabbed him right inside to guide him out the door.”

Patty took Nevels to a safe spot, noting his blackened features.

“You could just see soot all over him and maybe a little burn on his belly,” Patty said. “I got him down to our safe spot down here where we had gathered everybody. He was fighting and messing, of course, they're all hollering at him. That's when he took off in his underwear. He didn't have any shoes, so I'm like, ‘he didn't go far.’ Leonard the maintenance guy here actually found him back there and then they apprehended him.”

Apprehended in a barn just south of the property, the sooty and partially naked man was transported to the Pettis County Jail and charged with first-degree arson by Pettis County Prosecutor Phillip Sawyer.

“It blew the microwave off the wall,” Patty said. “So you know, that's what the bang was.”

She described the noxious smoke coming from the apartment.

“It was black and had a chemically, chemical smell. It was bad,” Patty said.

Davion was proud of his grandmother’s quick reactions.

“She made sure everybody was far away so that if the fire spread, nothing would happen,” Davion said.

Patty is proud of her grandson and said it shows what a great kid he is.

“He's an amazing kid and I know that he would do anything to help anybody,” Patty said. “He feels proud of himself and I'm very proud of him.”

Asked how he felt after helping rescue a neighbor, Javion was short in his answer.

“Feels good," Javion smiled.

“Thanks to the assistance of citizens that were there, that saw him (Nevels) run and were able to identify where he was, he was ultimately taken into custody after a witness found him,” Pettis County Sheriff Brad Anders said. “It was a lot of cooperation from Pettis County Fire, the State Fire Marshal, and witnesses that were on scene that were able to put the fire out, save lives, and get somebody in custody.”