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The Journal Gazette

  • Hammond

Thursday, January 11, 2018 1:00 am

Woman faces arson counts in pickup fires

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

On Saturday, temperatures were in the single digits when a local woman apparently sought shelter inside two pickup trucks.

By the time law enforcement was called to the scene of both trucks, the woman was gone. She lit fires inside the trucks to keep warm, she eventually told police.

Mary Hammond, 51, of the 600 block of Second Street was arrested after the investigating Fort Wayne Fire Department officer traced her through a Sprint Mobile business card with a phone number and PIN on the back.

When the investigator called the number, a Walmart employee answered saying that the phone had been turned in as a lost item. Later, Sprint confirmed the phone belonged to Hammond.

The fire investigator didn't know any of this when he was called to a vandalized 1997 Chevy truck.  The address was redacted from court records, but police activity logs indicate there was a call for vehicle vandalism in the 9600 block of Hessen Cassel Road at 10:50 a.m. Saturday.

There was heavy fire damage inside the truck that had been left unlocked. The investigator found cigarette butts and a lighter, though the owner said she did not smoke. There were also items that did not belong to the truck owner including popcorn, toilet paper and a movie ticket.

Outside the truck was a partly burned red and black book bag, a black winter scarf and a partly burned roll of toilet paper. The officer found the Sprint business card inside the backpack that also had a pink winter hat, paper products, Imodium tablets and cash.

A neighbor told police he saw a woman fitting Hammond's description wearing a pink hat and black scarf who was carrying the same book bag. The witness was leaving his apartment about 12:30 a.m. when he saw her.

Damage to that truck was estimated at $1,500, the officer said.

The officer was then called to the 300 block of Northeast Drive where a black Toyota truck also had interior fire damage. The owner said he left his truck unlocked. Damage was estimated at $500.

Saturday evening, Hammond returned to the Sprint store, and employees called police. Hammond was taken to the police station, where she asked to speak to an attorney.

On Tuesday, Hammond contacted the investigating officer stating she had spoken with her attorney and now wanted to speak to the officer about getting her things back. During a police interview, Hammond said she had set fire inside to both trucks and that she'd done this to keep warm.

Hammond was charged with two counts of arson with intent to defraud and was arrested at the police station, according to an Allen County Jail spokesman. She was being held in lieu of $5,000 bail.  

jduffy@jg.net