Former teacher accused in West Ghent arson facing additional charges

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Norfolk arson suspect faces new charges. Investigators arrested Ryan Elza this past July. He’s accused of setting a vehicle and home on fire off of Redgate and Claremont avenues in West Ghent.

Court documents that were just unsealed show charges dating back to 2011 in the Larchmont neighborhood. Elza at the time was reportedly living with his parents.

That summer, there was a string of arsons fire officials were investigating in Larchmont.

So far, they’ve only charged Elza in connection with one fire that occurred on June 2, 2011, on Longwood Drive and another on June 17 of that same year at his parents’ home just a few doors down.

Fast forward to Feb. 9, 2020, Elza was accused of setting fire to personal property causing more than $1,000 in damages and then setting fire to the home and vehicle of Tiffany and Patrick McGee in West Ghent in June this year.

At the time of his arrest, Elza said he was not mentally fit to stand trial. 10 On Your Side obtained a copy of his mental health evaluation that revealed he’s been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and anxiety.

Elza told the psychologist during the evaluation that his PTSD began in 2016 after watching a child burn to death in a car accident. He also had a traumatic experience as a child himself.

During his evaluation, Elza said he was having homicidal thoughts about his cellmates. 10 On Your Side confirmed he was housed in a four-person cell at the Norfolk City Jail then following his evaluation was immediately moved to a single-person cell where he’s been since July 26.

The mental health expert noted in Elza’s evaluation that he appeared to exaggerate symptoms of mental illness and was overall fit and competent to stand trial.

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