Father of Lewis County Arsonist Convicted for Threatening Victim

By Natalie Johnson / njohnson@chronline.com

The father of a man convicted of burning down two buildings on a neighbor’s property over a years-long property dispute has in turn been convicted for threatening the arson victim at his son’s preliminary court hearing. 

Delbert L. Nichols, 61, of Chehalis, was found guilty after a jury trial Wednesday of felony harassment and violation of a civil anti-harassment order. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 18.

Nichols’ son, Joshua L. Nichols, 39, of Chehalis, was originally charged June 26 in Lewis County Superior Court with first-degree arson, second-degree arson and second-degree burglary. 

Court: Nichols
Joshua L. Nichols appears at his preliminary hearing in Lewis County Superior Court in June.

Natalie Johnson / njohnson@chronline.com

On Aug. 24, he pleaded guilty to the first two counts — the burglary charge was dismissed — and was later sentenced to 32 months in prison and 18 months of community custody.

According to court documents, deputies from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office responded at 4:51 a.m. on June 24 to a structure fire in the 200 block of U.S. Highway 12. 

Deputies were previously aware of a long-running dispute between the owners of the structures on fire and the neighbors — Nichols’ family’s home. One such dispute was reported the previous day, according to court documents. 

Two buildings described as a storage shed and a pump house were seriously damaged.

The storage shed, which was touching the residence right below one of the resident’s bedroom windows, sustained mostly internal damage. The pump-house had more significant damage to its ceiling and rafters, according to court documents. 

Deputies contacted Joshua Nichols at his workplace in Astoria, Oregon, later that morning. 

According to court documents, he admitted to starting the fires and said he using a lighter and old clothes. Deputies found the lighter Nichols said he used to start the fire in a garbage can at a nearby gas station.

At Joshua Nichols’ June 26 preliminary appearance on the arson charge, father Delbert Nichols was accused of threatening Bruce Norris, the victim of the arson, and talking with him in violation of a civil court order. 

Delbert Nichols was arrested and made his own preliminary appearance in Lewis County Superior Court the next day. 

He was held on no bail in contempt of court after a series of outbursts during that hearing. 

“Hold me in contempt, I don’t give a f—,” he said. 

Nichols is not listed as being in custody at the Lewis County Jail.