In Jackson, MI, transgender man Niki Joly became a gay hero in 2016 and 2017 after he managed to put on a gay festival and have ordinances dropped that discriminated against gay people. The local paper named him Citizen of the Year.

But that was not enough attention for Joly because police finally arrested him for arson for burning his own house down in 2017. That fire killed his three cats and two dogs.

The police long believed Joly set fire to the house, but needed more evidence. From The Detroit News:

Despite the attention on Tulloch, police had another suspect in mind. They quickly zeroed in on Joly, according to the police report.

Joly told them that, on the morning of the fire, he bought $10 of gas at a Marathon station so he could cut his grass. He began to mow, but it got too hot so he stopped with the backyard half done.

He went to work at the church and got a call from Moore at 1:02 p.m., said the report. Moore had forgotten to pack her lunch so asked Joly to bring it to her at work. The couple share one car.

Joly returned home, which was two miles away, went inside for a minute or two, and left, he told police.

The fire was reported by neighbors at 1:16 p.m.

The sequence of events would have made it difficult for anyone but Joly to set the fire, Grove said in the police report.

“The timeline shows a window of less than five minutes for another person to enter the residence, splash gasoline around, ignite the fire and then leave without being scene,” wrote Grove.

The police also asked people around Joly about the fire:

Two people who worked with Joly at St. Johns United Church of Christ, where the Jackson Pride Center was located, said he had been frustrated the controversy over gay rights had died down with the passage of the nondiscrimination law, according to the report.

The church officials, Barbara Shelton and Bobby James, when asked by police about a possible motive for the fire, said Joly was disappointed the Jackson Pride Parade and Festival, held five days before the blaze, hadn’t received more attention or protests.

Contacted by a reporter, James declined to comment. But Shelton quibbled with the way police characterized her remarks, saying she had no idea if Joly was frustrated by the lack of controversy.

“Not sure I said that,” she wrote in an email. “I have no idea about anything, never heard Nikki comment in any fashion about anything like that.”

However, police detective Aaron Grove wrote in his report that “Shelton and james both described Nikki as very deceptive and stated that when it comes to Nikki there are ‘layers of manipulation.'”

The report also found gas on Joly’s clothes he wore on that day. The FBI and police interviewed Joly two weeks later and he didn’t admit or deny setting the fire.

Joly’s attorney said he did not own the house, which means no insurance money. He also thinks the motive lacks evidence due to the honors bestowed upon Joly by the city. That answer is quite easy. Some people need as much attention as possible. Once their stardom begins to die they need something else to happen to propel them back into the limelight.

Joly is innocent until proven guilty just like Jussie Smollett, who allegedly staged his own fake hate crime in order to raise his celebrity status and pay on the show Empire. Smollett claimed two whit men attacked him in Chicago, placed a noose around his neck, and yelled, “This is MAGA country!”

Unfortunately, these alleged hoaxes will keep people from taking a person’s word when it comes to hate crimes.


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