Woman set fires at two homes and Elementary school, Raleigh police charge

From staff reportsJanuary 13, 2014 

This story incorrectly reported that Elizabeth Zelle of Garner is accused of trying to set fire to Durant Middle School. Zelle is accused of trying to set fire to Durant Elementary School.

RALEIGH - A woman tried to set two houses and Durant Road Elementary School afire Monday morning, though none suffered significant damage, Raleigh police said.

Officers charged Elizabeth Zelle, 61, with two counts of first-degree arson and three counts of attempting to burn a schoolhouse.

Police could not determine a permanent address for Zelle, and she was booked simply as being from Garner, records showed.

The incidents began when a resident of a house on Smoky Chestnut Lane saw flames on the porch of the house shortly before 5 a.m. and was able to put them out before they could damage the structure, police spokesman Jim Sughrue said.

A trash bag had been taken out of a bin and set ablaze on the porch, charring it and damaging some furniture.

While police were on Smoky Chestnut, Sughrue said, another fire was reported around the corner on Deerland Grove Drive, where a wreath on the front door had been set on fire.

A police officer saw Zelle walking in the neighborhood, stopped her and determined she was involved with the fires and arrested her, Sughrue said.

A little after 8 a.m., firefighters discovered places where three fires had been set outside the school, and police attributed those to Zelle and added charges Monday afternoon.

Sughrue said police had not identified a motive in the incidents.

Zelle was being held in lieu of $150,500 bail Monday and was scheduled to be in court Tuesday.

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