UPDATE: Neighbor Catches Woman Allegedly Trying to Burn Home

By: Olivia Fecteau; Lou Pickney; Andrew Colegrove Email
By: Olivia Fecteau; Lou Pickney; Andrew Colegrove Email

UPDATE 10/21/13 @ 8 p.m.
MILTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Arson has been closing in on Charity Conner's home.

"There have literally been fires set on both sides of my house,” she said, “So I'm right in the middle."

Since October 3, six different arson cases have been reported in the same neighborhood in Milton on and near Washington Avenue.

"It's been nights of waking up, people banging on the door, fire trucks,” Conner said. “It's terrifying."

Conner says her fear came horrifyingly close to hitting home around 10 p.m. Friday.

"It was startling, upsetting, I don't even know all the words to use to know someone came into my area, a secure place, and tried to do this to my family and myself," she said.

Investigators say a neighbor saw Heather Meadows with a lighter trying to set fire to a window at the back of the Conners' house.

The criminal complaint says the neighbor “stated he held the defendant at gun point when the homeowner tackled the defendant, knocking a cigarette lighter out of the defendant’s hand.”

The complaint says the neighbor and Charity Conner’s husband held the woman to the ground till police arrived.

Meadows was charged with first-degree arson.

When asked why she was by the Conners’ home Friday night, Meadows said, "I was just looking. I did not do anything. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Meadows lives within sight of the Conners’ house on Mason Street.

Conner says she is mystified why this happened but grateful the neighbor intervened when he did, especially since that was her child's bedroom window.

"Just to know I could have either lost them to smoke, to burn, my whole house, that's what's disturbing,” Conner said. “That's what really bothers me is my children were here."

The screen on the Conners’ window had three separate burns on it, investigators say. It's been taken in to be examined by the fire marshal along with a lighter recovered at the scene.

The fire marshal says they're investigating whether Meadows may have been connected with any of the other recent arsons in Milton.

Meadows’ bond was set at a quarter of a million dollars.

UPDATE 10/19/13 @ 12:15 a.m.
MILTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – A woman was arrested late Friday night and charged with first-degree arson after a fire marshal says she was caught in the act attempting to set fire to a home.

This happened in the same area of Milton where six other fires have been reported in the past couple weeks, Timothy Chastain with the West Virginia Fire Marshal’s Office says.

According to the criminal complaint, witnesses told investigators they saw 35-year-old Heather Meadows using a lighter to try to set a fire to a window screen and window frame of a home on Rear Washington Avenue in Milton.

The complaint says a witness “stated he held the defendant at gun point when the homeowner tackled the defendant, knocking a cigarette lighter out of the defendant’s hand.”

Witnesses told investigators they held Meadows to the ground until law enforcement arrived.

Milton police and Chastain responded to the scene.

Investigators say three separate burn marks were found on the window screen.

The cigarette lighter was recovered near the home and has been sent to the West Virginia State Police Lab for fingerprint analysis, the complaint says.

Chastain says they are treating this as an isolated incident but will be investigating whether Meadows may have played a role in any of the six fires in the past couple weeks.

During her arraignment, which took place shortly after 12 a.m. Saturday, Meadows told WSAZ she was innocent.

When asked why she was near the home, she said “I was just looking. I did not do anything. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Meadows’ bond was set at $250,000. Her preliminary hearing is set for October 28.

UPDATE 10/18/13 @ 5:15 p.m.
MILTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A neighborhood is on edge after a vacant house went up in flames late Thursday night. Investigators say they are looking into this fire and several others in this neighborhood as acts of arson.

“Oh my God, not this again – that's what went through my mind,” Loretta Armstrong, who lives across Washington Avenue from the house, said.

Armstrong said this isn’t the first time this has happened lately. Milton Police and the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office say this is the sixth time in the last couple of weeks.

“We are afraid to even go to sleep anymore. This is how scary it's getting,” Armstrong said.

“We know that this person is a sick individual, and we believe that they're in the area and they could possibly be watching as this unfolds,” Milton Police Chief Chuck Zerkle said.

While the house that burned Thursday was vacant, the heat melted the vinyl siding off the house next door, where a disabled elderly woman lives.

“If that would have got her house on fire, it may have been a bad situation,” Zerkle said.

Signs are now posted on some of the properties that have burned, offering a reward up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. The signs read, “West Virginia is burning. We need your help.”

“We're hoping that the public comes forward for us and hoping they come through,” Zerkle said. “The reward's a little incentive. You know, it's tough times.”

Armstrong said she hopes this stops soon and that they catch whomever is responsible.

“It was a good street. I mean, it was a number one street,” Armstrong said. “Nobody on this street, I think, can believe that we are dealing with this.”

Police say they are encouraging neighbors to be nosy by looking out their windows and keeping an eye on anyone or anything that looks out of place or suspicious.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

ORIGINAL STORY 10/17/13 @ 11:05 p.m.
MILTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The cause of a fire at a vacant house in the process of being torn down is under investigation.

It started about 11 p.m. Thursday in the 1200 block of Washington Avenue in Milton. Firefighters from Milton and Ona responded and quickly put out the fire, but not before it did serious damage to what remained of the home. A second house located next door sustained some heat damage to its vinyl siding.

There are no reports of any injuries.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

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