Suspect in deadly BG apartment fire returns to court

Published 3:26 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2024

By Justin Story, Bowling Green Daily News

A Bowling Green man accused of setting his apartment on fire and causing the death of a man appeared Monday afternoon for a court hearing.

Brad McElvain, 44, was in Warren Circuit Court for a pretrial conference in a case in which he is charged with first-degree manslaughter and first-degree arson.

McElvain is charged in connection with the death of Lee M. Henderson, who was found Nov. 3, 2021, by members of the Bowling Green Fire Department while responding to a fire in the apartment at 1115 Vine St.

Henderson never regained consciousness and died 12 days later from his injuries.

At Monday’s hearing, McElvain’s attorney, Kayla Fugate of the Department of Public Advocacy, said she and Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Kori Beck Bumgarner have been in discussions about a possible resolution to the case that avoids a trial.

Warren Circuit Judge J.B. Hines set another pretrial conference for Aug. 12.

McElvain has been in custody at Warren County Regional Jail since Nov. 11, 2021, and was initially arrested on a charge of first-degree assault before Henderson died from his injuries.

City firefighters who were dispatched to the apartment encountered heavy smoke coming from the entrance to the building, and a bystander reportedly heard screaming from inside the building, according to prior court testimony.

Henderson was found lying on the floor in the back bedroom near where the fire was determined to have originated.

Investigators learned McElvain lived in the apartment, and after some effort found him for an interview.

After multiple interviews, McElvain reportedly admitted to setting a towel on fire, and the blaze spread to some clothes in his bedroom before he left the apartment.

BGFD investigator Jason Brooks testified at a 2021 preliminary hearing in Warren District Court that McElvain reported being mad at Henderson because he would not leave the apartment.

Issues arose during the case regarding McElvain’s ability to aid in his own defense and understand the charges against him, and after a hearing last year in which two psychologists testified, Hines found McElvain competent to stand trial.