LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11)-- After 18 months, Louisville Metro Arson finally has a suspect in what they believe to be a long string of arsons that have become known as the “wreath incidents.”
Linda Gail Lee, 54, has been charged with seven counts of arson in the first-degree, one count arson in the second degree and eight counts of wanton endangerment.
"Mrs. Lee is a very dangerous woman,” said Major Henry Ott of the Louisville Metro Arson Department. “Not only did she place the residents of these structures in danger, she she also endangered those firefighters that responded."
Two fires were started at Kristie Noe’s home last year. She showed us the soot stains on her back porch from the first one. It wasn’t what was lost in the fire that upset Noe, the blaze burned mostly junk. It was that the house was full of sleeping children and adults and investigators believed it was set on purpose.
The night before investigators announced that they’d made an arrest, Noe found out who it was.
“She was like a friend of ours,” Noe said of Lee, “We knew her daughter, we love her daughter. My daughter played with her daughter. I mean, she was our friend.”
Noe said she believes Lee is an alcoholic. She’d often see her at nearby bars.
“She would be at a bar or a nightclub, she would leave there and just didn’t want to go home cause the situation at home wasn’t very well. So her response was, she would go and cruise the neighborhood for hours at a time,” Major Ott said.
LMPD said they feel that the city is safer now that they have caught Lee.
"We think Louisville Metro is safer today because of these efforts," Stuart Lowrey of the Louisville Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Louisville Division said.
According to Noe, Lee dated Noe’s boyfriend’s brother, who lived at the home where the fires were started with them.
“We could’ve died,” Noe said, “She could’ve killed us all.”
The first big break in the case came on March 20 of this year when Lee set a fire at an apartment complex.
"Apparently unknown to her, the apartment complex had installed a sophisticated surveillance system that gave us the general description of a vehicle with a unique front license plate," Ott said.
Even though the picture was blurry, it at least gave the investigators an idea of what kind of care she had. The investigation culminated with a duplex fire Monday, leading to Lee’s capture Thursday night.
"Thinking about this last night and going home after this, I put this at probably the third largest and most important investigation, because of the sheer number of fires," Ott said.
For the arson investigators, this case was particularly challenging because Lee does not fit the usual serial-arsonist profile. She is a married woman in her mid-50s with a job and a teenage daughter.
Ott explained that is far from the usual arsonist description.
"She was very remorseful,” Ott said. “I think that she was glad that she got caught, and she admitted she was a dangerous woman."
Louisville Metro Arson looks to add even more charges to this case. They want to add seven more counts of arson in the first degree, one count arson in the third degree and 11 more counts of wanton endangerment. Arson charges are felonies and arson in the first degree carries a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.
Lee's bond is $25,000.