Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 20, 2013

Arson suspect made threats at hospital in Traverse City

TRAVERSE CITY — A Traverse City man accused of trying to blow up his apartment building walked away from Munson Medical Center’s emergency room hours before threatening to do just that, according to a police report.

Joseph Arthur Elliott, 53, was charged with first-degree attempted arson after authorities alleged he left his stove burners open in hopes his gas-filled apartment would explode and kill his neighbors in the Bay Hill Apartments complex late Sunday night.

The police report states Elliott told officers he heard voices in his head and thought he hadn’t received “proper medical attention” at Munson. Hours earlier, Elliott received a psychological evaluation in the emergency room that did not recommend hospitalization.

“Elliott felt that if he blew up the building and killed the other tenants, he would go to prison where they would be forced to take care of him and they would give him drugs to make the voices stop in his head,” the report states.

Elliott was arrested Monday at 12:35 a.m. and transported again to Munson’s emergency room. An ER nurse told police Elliott was psychologically and medically cleared, but declined a referral to a “respite care facility.”

Elliott then left against doctor’s orders and “walked away from the ER stating he was going to blow up his apartment building,” according to the report. The ER nurse called authorities, but the police report does not give a time. Police arrived at the apartment complex Sunday about 11:50 p.m. after Elliott called dispatchers to report he turned on the gas in his apartment building.

Munson Medical Center spokesman Ian Jones had no information about Elliott and couldn’t comment on specifics. He said generally emergency room patients who receive psychological evaluations undergo a “structured and thorough interview process” and a psychiatrist may recommend hospitalization, an outpatient referral or discharge.

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney said Elliott is one of the first individuals in Grand Traverse County to be charged under the state’s new arson laws that were established last year. First-degree attempted arson involves a multi-unit dwelling.

The charge is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Elliott is scheduled to be arraigned in 86th District Court today at 8:30 a.m.

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