Police describe emotional confession in arson case
FRONT ROYAL — Documents filed in Warren County General District Court state that a woman charged with four arsons at two residences on Osage Street confessed to the offenses under police questioning after the latest fire on April 10.
A criminal complaint written by Front Royal police Detective David L. Fogle describes the defendant, Tanya Wyvonne Smoot, 45, of 341 Osage St., as “very emotional” after he took her to his office.
Authorities arrested Smoot in Winchester on Monday after linking her to three residential fires at 339 Osage St. on Nov. 29, Jan. 25 and Jan. 27 and a fire next door at 341 Osage St., which is also Smoot’s residence, on April 10.
Fogle wrote: “During the interview Tanya became very emotional and made several statements to include: ‘I didn’t care anymore, I didn’t want to be here anymore, I didn’t want to live anymore, I just don’t care, put me in jail, and I need help.'”
The complaint states that Smoot then confessed to “starting all of the fires as a way for attention and help and advised that she wanted help.”
Fogle also wrote that Smoot, while still at her residence after the fire, stated, “I guess I get to take a hot shower tonight.”
The complaint states that water to Smoot’s residence had been cut off for the previous three days.
No one was injured in any of the four fires, and firefighters were able to quickly extinguish them, although the Jan. 27 fire spread through the first floor and onto the roof line before it was halted.
The criminal complaint states that Fogle and Warren County Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico had already concluded that the first three fires were arsons months before Smoot was arrested.
Fogle described 339 Osage St. as an unoccupied property rented by a hoarder who used the structure to store property, much of it combustible.
When Fogle arrived at the scene of the fire on April 10, he met with Maiatico. The complaint states that Maiatico reported that neighbors had told him that Smoot and her husband “had been arguing all day, and that ‘she [Tanya] started the fires.'”
Front Royal police Sgt. Crystal Cline said in an interview Thursday that authorities sent Smoot to a mental health facility in Winchester for an evaluation after her interview with Fogle. Smoot remained there until Monday when she was arrested.
“When she was going to be released from the facility is when the arrest warrants were served,” Cline said.
Cline said close collaboration between the town police and the county’s department of fire and rescue services was the key to solving the case.
“Early on by the second arson, they could link the first and second fires together,” Cline said of Fogle and Maiatico.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org