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On February 15, a judge ordered 64-year-old Nancy Lee Ellis held for trial on five different arson charges, four of which are felonies. Ellis is pleading not guilty.

Testimony at the preliminary hearing suggested that Ellis was agitated because the man she lived with, Robert Duell, was out of town at a film festival, and Ellis was denied an opportunity to accompany him. It was alleged that Nancy Lee Ellis drove her car to an apartment duplex on Regal Road in Encinitas, where a woman named Marianne LaPiedra lived. Marianne LaPiedra said she has been a “close friend” of Robert Duell since 1973.

The man who lived next door to Marianne LaPiedra in the duplex, James Booth, said that his barking dogs awakened him after 1 a.m. on the morning of July 26, 2010, and he went outside and saw Nancy Lee Ellis pouring gasoline on the hood of his next-door-neighbor’s car, a BMW. Booth said he saw Ellis strike a match and drop it onto the hood of the BMW, and the fire spread to his Toyota Tundra truck parked in the adjacent slot under the carport.

Although Booth said he soaked the area with water and gave Nancy Lee Ellis a good spray from the garden hose too, he was unable to prevent the fire’s spread through the carport and then on to their duplex.

Judge Harry Elias ordered the petite, gray-haired defendant back to the Vista Courthouse on March 15.

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