Man accused in fire appears in court

first_imgWHITTIER – A homeless man accused of setting fire to the Beverly Boulevard bridge appeared in Whittier Court on Monday for the first day of his preliminary hearing.Nelson Gastelum, 29, faces one felony count of starting the fire that destroyed the Beverly Boulevard bridge Nov. 1. Shackled in a bright yellow and blue jumpsuit, Gastelum remained quiet throughout the testimony except to whisper occasionally to his attorney, Tomas Requejo.According to Gastelum’s brother, Mario Gastelum, and his sister-in-law, Olga Gastelum, Nelson Gastelum came to their home in Pico Rivera the afternoon of the fire, asking if he could use their bath.Referring to Nelson Gastelum’s supposed history of mental illness, Requejo asked Olga, “Is Nelson a little different, shall we say? Was his behavior the day of the fire normal for him?”Olga Gastelum, speaking through a Spanish interpreter, said her brother-in-law’s grubby appearance was normal since he had been living under the bridge for the past year, showing up occasionally to bathe and eat. She acknowledged Nelson’s mental illness.According to Olga Gastelum and Maria Gastelum – Nelson’s stepmother – the defendant admitted to starting a fire to keep warm, but told them a friend who was with him the day of the fire threw a cigarette under the bridge, causing the structure to burn. Numerous Gastelums all said the defendant never admitted to setting the fire. However, Mario Gastelum testified that he believed it might be his brother because he was the only one living under the bridge. [email protected](562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more