Norwich police arrest city man in 1990 arson case

Norwich — City police say they have solved a 23-year-old arson case with the arrest of a 51-year-old local man Friday on charges that he burned an unoccupied home owned by his late father.

Victor D. Walka Jr. of 36 Sherwood Lane was charged Friday with first-degree arson for his role in a May 31, 1990, fire at 563 W. Thames St., which police said caused $100,000 in damage. One firefighter sustained a minor burn injury during the blaze.

The unoccupied home was owned by Walka's father, local businessman Victor D. Walka, but was used for business storage.

Norwich Police Sgt. Peter Camp declined to discuss details of the case, the motive for the alleged arson or why the case was revived, but he did say a statute of limitations does not apply to a Class A felony.

Information that led to the signing of an arrest warrant was obtained following a review of the 1990 investigation and new information was developed by Norwich Police Officer Robert Smith, a fire investigator and a member of the city's arson investigation task force.

Norwich Police Capt. Patrick Daley, who is now chief of the East Great Plain Fire Department, was among firefighters who responded to the 1990 fire. He said he recalls the attention it received because of its suspicious nature.

"We just thought it was odd at the time," Daley said. "It's a busy street. It was three-quarters involved by the time we got there and it happened during the middle of the day."

East Great Plain was joined at the scene by firefighters from the Mohegan Fire Department.

Following the fire, the Norwich fire marshal's office began an investigation with the state fire marshal's office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms. The state fire marshal used an arson dog, Mattie, who alerted to the smell of accelerants within the residence, police said.

The Norwich fire marshal's office ruled the fire incendiary, and the investigation was turned over to city detectives, police said.

After his arrest on Friday, Walka was released on a $50,000 nonsurety bond. He is scheduled to appear Nov. 21 in Norwich Superior Court.

The address of the 1990 fire is listed as an auto service and repair shop, according to city records. The property was sold to the current owners in 1996 by Auto Showcase Realty Inc., of which Walka Jr. is listed as president.

Anyone with information regarding arsons is asked to call the Norwich Police Department's Tip Line at (860) 886-5561 ext. 500 or the Connecticut Arson Hot Line at (800) 84ARSON.

Day staff writer Jennifer McDermott contributed to this report.


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