Jackson Citizen of the Year accused of setting his home on fire, 5 pets killed in alleged arson

JACKSON, Mich. – For several months, people in Jackson have been wondering if a successful LGBTQ activist who was named the city's citizen of the year could have actually staged a hate crime to portray himself as a victim.

Nikki Joly is a transgender man who pushed Jackson to pass the noted nondiscrimination ordinance. He also organized the city's first pride festival and just days after that, his home was burned down. Originally, officials believed the fire was a hate crime but now, police think Joly staged the deadly fire.

The police report shows a timeline investigators couldn't ignore. On Aug. 10, 2017 Joly got a call at work at 1:02 p.m. He drove home and arrived at 1:09 p.m. and left as late as 1:13 p.m. The first 911 call for the fire came three minutes later at 1:16 p.m.

Investigators found five spots doused in gasoline and believed the fire began in at least two places. Five pets died in the fire; two German shepherds and three cats. Joly was official charged with arson a little more than a year after the fire.

Joly referred Local 4 to an attorney Monday but on Jackson TV in 2018, when many still assumed it was a hate crime Joly spoke about the fire.

"It was a terrifying experience but in terms of being run out of town, I'll decide when it's time for me to leave," he said.

Cindy Eby another Jackson activist just can't bring herself to believe Joly could do it, especially since the community raised $60,000 to help afterward.

"I know Nikki loved those dogs, so I have a hard time believing he would do that," Eby said.

Eby said if Joly is found guilty, it will tarnish what he helped accomplish, but it can't stop the good that it's doing for everyone else in Jackson.

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