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'He said he was going to kill himself and kill every officer there'

Zoe Greszler • May 1, 2018 at 4:00 AM

A Norwalk man and woman are behind bars after the man allegedly started a house fire, climbed onto the roof, repeatedly tried to kill himself and threatened police and firefighters Sunday afternoon.

About 1:55 p.m., Norwalk police and firefighters were called to 7 Adams St. after being notified about a window unit air-conditioner on fire on the second floor.

Upon arrival, they found one of the occupants on the front porch, yelling at the first-responders, police said. They also saw a man — later identified as John D. Marsillett — standing on the roof.

A ladder was raised to rescue Marsillett, but he refused and threw the ladder aside. That began a standoff that lasted a few hours.

“Officers found him on the roof of the residence with no shirt and a substantial amount of blood on his chest and arms,” said Norwalk Police Department interim Chief Mike Conney. Police believe the 33-year-old Marsilett cut himself with window glass when climbing out to get to the roof.

Conney said the Marsillett, who was the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the Huron County Sheriff’s Office, began to scream obscenities at officers and first responders, saying he wasn’t going to come down. Marsillett claimed he had a knife and was going to “kill himself and kill every officer there before he went back to jail.”

“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,” Conney said. “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 then demanded to have his pastor come to the scene. Police contacted the pastor, but it took him some time for him to arrived. In the meantime, Marsillett attempted again to take his life, police said.

“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. “He was unsuccessful. 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.”

The pastor arrived just after that and tried to talk to Marsillett, to calm him. However, Conney said Marsillett was “yelling and was just acting so irrationally; he wasn’t listening.” Marsillett then tried to grab the power lines again.

“This time he (went over) to the powerline and grabbed on with both hands,” Conney said. “It shocked him until he fell from the roof down to the driveway.”

A Facebook Live video shot by a neighbor shows the ordeal. It appears Marsillett intentionally jumped from the house after the wire-grabbing incident.

“Officers rushed over to him, told him to stay on the ground and put his hands behind his back, but he refused and kept trying to get up,” Conney said. “Based on his actions and his threats made to police, officers used a Taser on him.”

Conney said Marsillett became compliant after being Tased and was treated at the scene by North Central EMS before being taken by ambulance to Fisher-Titus Medical Center. Not long after, though, he was cleared to leave the hospital and was immediately taken the Huron County Jail where he was charged with aggravated arson and disrupting a pubic service.

Once Marsillett was off the roof, firefighters were able to put the fire out “fairly quickly,” Conney said, adding it is believed Marsillett started the fire. Police cleared the scene by about 4:15 p.m. However, firefighters did not return to the station until 9 p.m. and were seen at the scene at 8:30 p.m. in hazmat suits.

“We believe at this point is was drug-related,” Conney said. “But, obviously, we’re still investigating.” 

During the ordeal, another 7 Adams St. resident — Megan L. Derby, 32 — was charged with tampering with evidence. Derby and others were told to stay away from the house, which was taped off while authorities awaited a search warrant. Later, however, an officer noticed she had disappeared, Conney said. She was found inside the house, leaving the bathroom, “trying to hide her hands from the officer,” the interim chief added.

Derby was found to be in possession of drug paraphernalia and was subsequently arrested and incarcerated as well, police said.

The chief said, given the situation, he was proud of the work his men did.

“I’m happy with the outcome,” he said. “Based on the situation, the best outcome obviously would have been for him 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.

“I think they (first responders) did a great job. Their options were pretty limited in this situation. … Officers are worried about getting Mr. Marsillett off the roof safely. Firefighters are trying to get the fire out. You’re worried about the houses next door, about the people coming out and seeing what’s going on and about him threatening to kill the officers. There were so many things that potentially could have happened. They all handled it the best way you could have.”

The fire remains under investigation. Property losses were reported to be at least $13,500, firefighters said.

The State Fire Marshall's Office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation also are involved in the investigation.

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