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February 1, 2013

McAlester man gets 20 years prison time for arson, intent to kill

McALESTER — A McAlester man was recently sentenced to serve 20 years prison time for arson and intent to kill.

Max Albert McElroy, 58, was charged in May in Pittsburg County District Court with multiple counts in two separate cases. He was charged with first degree arson, attempted first degree murder, possession of a controlled dangerous substance (methamphetamine) and domestic assault and battery in the presence of a minor. In June, the attempted first degree murder charge was reduced to assault and battery with intent to kill.

On Jan. 28, McElroy pleaded guilty to all four counts and was sentenced to serve 20 years in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. He was fined $250 and ordered to pay $931.47 in restitution. The court also recommended McElroy seek mental health counseling while incarcerated, according to court records.

On May 7, when McElroy was arrested, he told police that he used methamphetamine at around 6:30 that morning, a police affidavit states. He then threw a cup of hot coffee on his niece, Lindsey Lorene Chelleberg, while she was holding her three-week old baby, according to the affidavit.

McElroy was later arrested for domestic assault and, when talking with police, he expressed his “severe dislike” for his niece’s husband, Johnnie Chellberg Jr., and his father, Johnnie Chellberg Sr., according to court records.

While police were interviewing McElroy about the domestic abuse incident, McAlester Police Det. Brant Gamble was investigating an arson call from Chellberg Sr.’s residence. “Someone had thrown molotov cocktails at Johnnie Sr.’s house and started a fire. Johnnie Sr. was able to extinguish the fire with a water hose and was not injured,” the affidavit states.

McElroy was then interviewed by authorities regarding the arson case. “Gamble asked (McElroy) what he had done with the molotov cocktail(s) that Max (McElroy) made and Max (McElroy) said he had thrown them at Johnnie Chellberg Sr.’s house,” the affidavit states. “Max (McElroy) said he thought he threw about a half dozen of them at the house. ... Max (McElroy) said that he had gone to (a friend’s) house to get a rifle to kill Johnnie Sr., but remembered that he had sold the gun, so he went to (a local gas station) and filled 2 red 1 gallon gas cans, bought a box (12) of fruit jars at Walmart and made molotov cocktails with the intent of burning down Johnnie Sr.’s home with him in it, in order to kill Johnnie Sr.”

According to this same affidavit, McElroy told police, “I haven’t been back to the house, but I hope it burned down with Johnnie Sr. in it.”

Contact Rachel Petersen at

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