Law enforcement officials believe a Chandler, Ind., man who was charged with stealing a boat in Spottsville last spring is connected to the recent fire on Henderson Island.
Henderson County Sheriff Chip Stauffer said that the truck used to tow away a green john boat in March from a Hillside Lane home is the same truck that was spotted at the Second Street boat ramp the night of the fire, which occurred Nov. 17.
The sheriff’s office obtained a warrant for 29-year-old Cole Bell, who was picked up by police in Chandler in late November in connection to the boat theft in the spring. Now Bell sits in the Warrick County Detention Center awaiting to be extradited to the local detention center, which should happen this week, Stauffer said.
In the spring incident, Joshua Greder, a friend of Bell’s, drove the truck to the Hillside Lane address in Spottsville and stole a 2001 green john boat, according to a Henderson District Court warrant.
A Henderson Police Department officer later spotted the truck and boat at Green Leaf Market on U.S. 60., where they arrested Greder and took his cellphone, said the warrant. A forensic examination of the cellphone showed a text from Bell to Greder that “appeared to be Google Maps showing an overhead view of the residence where the boat was located,” said the warrant.
Henderson police documented the same truck used in that theft parked at the downtown boat ramp the night of the fire, Stauffer said.
Adam Blythe, a resident who lives directly across from the island and witnessed the blaze being set, said he watched a boat holding three people motor from Henderson Island upstream toward downtown Henderson after the fire was set.
When Henderson police appeared at the boat ramp, the boat veered off of the path to the boat ramp and headed off into the night, said Stauffer, who added that an HPD officer got a blurry photo that showed three people in the boat.
Stauffer believes one of the men is Bell.
“We know that there were more people, but we don’t know who they are as of yet,” Stauffer said.
Before the fire was set, Blythe said he saw a boat with very bright amber lights puttering along the shore of Henderson Island and at first thought the people on the boat were bowfishing because he’d seen similar crafts do that in the past.
Later he saw one person get out of the boat and onto the island. The man held what appeared to be a 5-gallon container, jumped out of the boat and scurried up the embankment, he said. Blythe said he “could see him dumping something” from the container. He said the person dumped it along the embankment and then beyond it, on the inner area of the island.
Moments later, Blythe said he heard a man in the boat yell, “Fire! Fire!” Quickly a torch lit up and another person was lighting the areas where the other had dumped fluid from the container, Blythe said. Within three minutes, both had returned from the island and were back in the boat, which began moving toward downtown Henderson, Blythe said.