Basil Eleby, the man charged with setting the fire that brought down part of I-85, has gone from being an anonymous homeless street-dweller to capturing national headlines.
But who is he? Here are some interesting facts.
1. Eleby lived about a quarter mile from the I-85 overpass at Piedmont Road. He resided in a beat-up white Mercedes parked in the back of a car repair shop. The owner let him stay there.
2. He had been arrested at least 19 times. There were charges of battery and assault, trafficking and possessing cocaine, but he never spent more than a few months in jail.
3. Many communities have a Basil Eleby. He’s the aimless guy who has nobody, no place to go, and no way to support himself. Store owners took Eleby under wing, giving him errands and chores.
4. Authorities say Eleby had consumed drugs under the bridge before allegedly setting the fire. He had told police he left the area before the fire began.
5. Eleby was born at Grady Memorial Hospital. His family was low-income. By the time Basil was in his late twenties, he was taking drugs. His mother threw him out of the house.
6. Day after day, Eleby rode his bicycle around the area near the I-85 bridge, stopping in place after place, doing a little work here, an odd job there. He was harmless, but sometimes showed flashes of anger, said several shop owners.
7. Eleby is expected to be released on bond after pleading not guilty to arson and criminal trespass charges in court Tuesday morning.
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