Norwalk arsonist who attempted public suicide gets prison term

Cary Ashby • Updated Sep 7, 2018 at 8:07 AM

A Norwalk man convicted of illegally manufacturing drugs and an arson has been sentenced to prison.

John D. Marsillett, 33, formerly of 7 Adams St. pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count each of illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs and aggravated arson. His convictions are for an April 29 incident at his home.

As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dismissed one count of illegal manufacture of drugs, two charges of aggravated arson and a single count of arson.

Once the defendant pleaded guilty, Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway sentenced Marsillett to four years in prison and fined him $5,000.

About 1:55 p.m. April 29, Norwalk police and firefighters responded to 7 Adams St. about a window air-conditioner unit on fire on the second floor. Upon arrival, they found Marsillett standing on the roof. Police have said they suspect the man cut himself with window glass when climbing to the roof.

“Officers found him on the roof of the residence with no shirt and a substantial amount of blood on his chest and arms,” police Chief Mike Conney said soon after the incident. “Firefighters put a ladder up to the roof to try and give him a way to get down safely and he responded to that by trying to push it over. … He said again he was going to kill himself and at that time he pulled out a prescription pill bottle (from his pocket), emptied the pills into his hand and swallowed all of them.”

Marsillett was wanted on an undisclosed warrant issued by the Huron County Sheriff’s Office. Conney said the man — who reported having a knife — screamed obscenities at authorities, refused to come down and said he was going to “kill himself and kill every officer there before he went back to jail.”

Upon Marsillett’s request, police contacted his pastor. While waiting for him to arrive, Marsillett attempted to hang himself, but was unsuccessful.

“He went over to the phone line and he ripped the phone line right out from the house, tied it around his neck and tried to hang himself,” Conney said. “Then he went over to the electrical wires that were apparently live wires and he grabbed the electrical line. It appeared to have shocked him and he let go immediately.”

When the pastor was at the scene, Marsillett again grabbed the power lines — this time with both hands, which Conney said “shocked him until he fell from the roof down to the driveway.” When officers rushed to his side to handcuff him, Marsillett is accused of not staying on the ground, contrary to police orders.

“Based on his actions and his threats made to police, officers used a Taser on him,” Conney said.

North Central EMS treated Marsillett at the scene before taking him to Fisher-Titus Medical Center. After being cleared, he was transported to the Huron County Jail.

Once Marsillett was off the roof, firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze. The crew cleared the scene about seven hours after responding to Adams Street. At one point, firefighters were in hazmat suits.

“I think (the first responders) did a great job. Their options were pretty limited in this situation,” Conney said. “Based on the situation, the best outcome obviously would have been for (Marsillett) to come down off the roof safely. But given the situation, this was I think (the next best) outcome we could have asked for. For it to have ended the way it did — no injuries to officers or firefighters and minimal injuries to Mr. Marsillett — we probably couldn’t have asked for a much better one.”

In March 2008, Marsillett received a 10-month local prison sentence for possession of cocaine. Then in May 2012, he was sentenced to another 10-month term for violating his probation on the underlying conviction of possession of heroin. 

In other hearings:

• Douglas Arnold, 42, most recently of 17 Indian Terrace, was fined $500 Wednesday for failure to register. He has a 90-day discretionary jail sentence hanging over his head during his three years of probation. Arnold’s probation officer can impose part or all of the term at any time without a hearing.

• Holly J. Heitsche, 26, most recently of 1218 Carroll Road, Collins, was ordered Wednesday to pay $840 in restitution and fined $250 for retaliation. Conway credited her with serving 112 days in jail and sentenced her to a 60-day discretionary term as part of her three years of probation.

As part of an earlier plea deal, prosecutors dismissed one count each criminal damaging or endangering, arson and attempted aggravated arson, all in connection with a July 5, 2017 incident. The sheriff’s office investigated the case.

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