KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- A Highland Avenue woman is accused of using a cigarette to ignite bags of clothes and magazines on the porch of a mobile home that had a family inside.
Linda C. Daley, 63, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division to a felony count of first degree arson. She was released on conditions she not have contact with Jessica McIntyre, and John Daley, and to stay 300 feet from the mobile home at which she is accused of setting the fire.
According to an affidavit by Manchester Police Officer Abigail Zimmer, on Wednesday at 2:30 a.m. she and Officer Chris Mason were leaving the Manchester Police Department when a dispatcher came outside and told them it appeared as though a mobile home nearby was on fire. The fire department was notified while Mason took a fire extinguisher to the mobile home and knocked the fire down.
Mason knocked on the door and it was answered by Warren McIntyre III, who helped police remove from the porch three garbage bags filled with clothes that were still burning, plus a couch that had also started to burn.
The bags had not been on the porch when McIntyre went to bed. He told police the clothes appeared to be from his mother-in-law’s house and that she and his wife had been arguing before.
Police said Jessica McIntyre is Warren McIntyre’s wife and is the daughter of Daley. Inside the mobile home at the time of the fire were Warren McIntyre, Jessica McIntyre, two children, and Jessica McIntyre’s father, who is on oxygen. Police said the fire discolored the outside of the mobile home.
The bags were found to contain fishing magazines in addition to clothes. A cigarette butt was found and collected by police as evidence.
Jessica McIntyre told police she had been having issues with her mother lately and said the bags came from Daley’s house. McIntyre said her father had lived with Daley up until the day before.
Police said they went looking for Daley at her home but did not find her. They did find her vehicle, the hood of which was warm. They also spoke to a neighbor who said he gives Daley his old fishing magazines.
A dog owned by the Vermont State Police that is trained to detect accelerants used in fires was brought in to smell some of the debris. Zimmer wrote that the dog "alerted" on one of the magazines, indicating the presence of an accelerant.
Later in the day police spoke to a person living in a mobile home near the one affected by the fire who shared with a police a video showing a car that looked like the one Daley owns driving up to the mobile home where the fire was. Shortly after it stops what appear to be flames come up in front of the home, then the vehicle leaves.
At 7:30 p.m. Daley contacted police and then met with them. She said she went to the mobile home where her daughter lives late Tuesday evening and dropped off bags of clothes. When told about the video she said she was not sure about the time she was there, then said she may have caused the fire. She told police she put a lit cigarette in with the bags then began to cry after being asked by police why she did that.
"Also during the interview she told us she was very upset at her husband and Jessica, but would never do anything to harm any of her family," wrote Zimmer.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @kwhitcombjr