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Man tells police in Norwich he's responsible for 1990 arson fire

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published November 19. 2013 4:00AM
He says he wanted to help father pay debts

Norwich - Victor D. Walka Jr. of Sherwood Lane apparently suffered from a guilty conscience.

The 51-year-old walked into Norwich police headquarters over the summer and told police he had set a fire 23 years earlier that leveled a house owned by his father, according to newly available police documents.

Walka Jr. says he committed the 1990 arson at 563 W. Thames St. in part to help his late father, Victor Walka Sr., a local business owner who was in some financial trouble at the time and hadn't paid his taxes in several years.

"Walka Jr. stated what he had done bothered him for many years and something inside of him has, for years, been telling him to tell what he did and to reimburse the insurance company the nearly $100,000 his father collected for the fire loss," according to an arrest warrant affidavit in the case.

The fire occurred on the afternoon of May 31, 1990 when members of the East Great Plain and Mohegan fire departments were called to the 1½ story building on the same property as Victor Walka Sr.'s business, Auto Showcase Inc. The building that burned was being used for storage.

Most of the building was in flames when firefighters arrived and one suffered a burn injury to his neck, records show. The building was later demolished.

The investigation found that the fire was intentionally set using an accelerant, likely gasoline.

Walka Jr. had been spotted at the home on the day of the fire, and investigators learned he had taken a trip to Pennsylvania shortly after. Walka Jr. was questioned by police at the time, but it does not appear they had enough evidence, until now, to charge him.

Walka Jr., in his recent admission to police, said he doused the building with gasoline, drove home to pick up his wife and immediately left for a pre-arranged business trip to Pennsylvania. He went on to tell police that his father, a controlling man, had off-handedly said "somebody should burn down the house," and he took it literally, according to police.

In the interview with police earlier this year, Walka said he thought if he burned the building down for his father he may have been able to settle his father's financial problems and back taxes. A police investigation spawned by Walka's admission verified Walka Sr. owed the city $13,929 in back taxes in 1990.

Walka Jr.'s former wife, who was also interviewed after this summer's admission, said that after she confronted Walka Sr. after the fire, he told her to "keep her mouth shut," police said. Police said Walka Jr.'s mother also admitted she knew her son started the fire.

It doesn't appear Walka Sr. knew who set the fire until Walka Jr. called him from Pennsylvania after the fire.

Walka Jr. said his father spent $50,000 of the insurance money settling debts and used most of the rest in another business venture. Walka Jr. said his father tried to give him $5,000 of the insurance money, but he refused.

Walka Jr. would later take over his father's businesses and properties when he died in 2005 at the age of 65.

Walka Jr. was charged earlier this month with first-degree arson, a Class A felony without a statute of limitations. He was released on bond and is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Norwich Superior Court.

g.smith@theday.com

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