2 charged with attempted murder in house fire

Tuesday May 21, 2013

MORRISTOWN (AP) -- A woman who wanted to get back at her neighbors for allegedly turning her in the state welfare officials has been charged with attempted murder for allegedly setting fire to their trailer while they were in it, Morristown police said.

Leola Bell, 35, and a friend, Tina Cole, 40, pleaded not guilty on Friday to attempted first-degree murder and first-degree arson charges. They were being held on $100,000 bail.

No one was hurt in the fire last Tuesday but the trailer had substantial damage, police said. It was occupied by four adults and two small children at the time, police said.

Bell said she wanted to get back at the family, who she suspected had called the welfare office on her, according to a police affidavit.

She stated that she "wanted to do something to them -- a fire -- to scar them," because of the paper work she had received, the police affidavit said. But she said Cole was the one who started the fire.

She said after Cole talked to a friend about how to set a fire, Bell then bought supplies -- matches, a soup ladle and storage container, the affidavit said. The two bought gas and Cole filled up a plastic bottle and walked toward the neighbor’s home, while Bell said she told her not to, the affidavit said. Bell said Cole screamed and ran back to the vehicle, the affidavit said.

Two other people are facing arson charges in the case. Cynthia Bell, 57, and Gwen Hislop, 49, of Morristown will be arraigned Wednesday on charges of accessory to arson for their roles in the fire at 80 George St., police.

More charges are expected.


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