Norfolk teacher charged with arson after investigation into suspicious fires in West Ghent


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk police have made an arrest in connection with at least one suspicious fire in the West Ghent area of Norfolk.

The Norfolk Fire Marshal’s Office said police arrested Ryan Lee Elza, 42, of Norfolk, on Monday and charged him with one count of arson of an occupied dwelling.

Ryan Elza (Norfolk City Jail)

Elza is being held without bond in the Norfolk City Jail.

The fire marshal said the arrest came after a joint investigation with the Norfolk Police Department into a series of suspicious fires in West Ghent.

The Norfolk Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed Elza was arrested and charged in connection with the fire at the McGee family home. Their car was destroyed and their house damaged by a fire in their driveway on Claremont Avenue June 11.

The McGees are now breathing a sigh of relief.

“We feel safe,” said Tiffany McGee. “It just feels like waking up from a nightmare.”

“The credit for all of this, not only goes to the media for bringing light to it, but to Fire Marshal Nick Nelson and the Norfolk Fire Marshal’s Office and the Norfolk Police Department who did an incredible job,” said Pat McGee.

Elza lived in an apartment complex across the street from McGees.

“On the night of the fire, he threatened me but it was a confusing situation, a lot going on and prior to that I’d seen him one time,” said McGee.

“We’d already sought a protective order because of his behavior from the night of our fire. We all along suspected it was him because of the way he behaved and the threats he made while our house was burning,” added Tiffany McGee.

Officials have not said whether Elza is a suspect in the other fires, but said that more charges could be brought pending the outcome of the investigation, which is ongoing.

On Tuesday, 10 On Your Side confirmed Elza is a middle school teacher with Norfolk Public Schools, and he lived just across the street from the McGees. Norfolk Public Schools said he was hired as an English teacher at Lake Taylor School.

“We are not at liberty to comment further, as this is a personnel matter,” a school spokeswoman wrote in an email.

Elza is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Sept. 30.

Stay with for updates.

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