Woman accused of setting vehicle fire indicted by grand jury

A woman accused of setting a vehicle fire in September 2015 outside of a local downtown bar has been indicted by a Tom Green County grand jury on an arson charge, a second-degree felony.

According to court documents, the grand jury found that on Sept. 8, 2015, Chelsea Jo Strube intended to damage or destroy a vehicle, start a fire by igniting a flammable liquid and piece of fabric placed in and near the gas tank of the vehicle, knowing the vehicle was within San Angelo city limits.

On the evening of Sept. 15, 2015, a vehicle fire was reported to dispatch in the parking lot outside of The Deadhorse, 210 S. Chadbourne St. San Angelo Fire Department Arson Investigator Karla Steppe was called to the scene, where she found a 2008 Volkswagen Jetta in the parking lot with a broken gas tank cover and burnt paint inside the gas tank cover, next to the opening of the tank and additional burnt paint down the side of the Jetta leading from the tank.

According to court documents, Steppe observed a piece of green melted plastic, resembling a plastic soda bottle, melted into the parking lot pavement next to the Jetta and a white piece of cloth with burned edges that appeared to be the remnant of a white T-shirt. The Jetta’s front passenger tire had been cut in multiple places and was flat.

After inspection of the scene and a victim interview, Steppe suspected the fire was intentionally set. She asked the victim if she had any idea who set the fire and the victim identified Strube and described Strube’s vehicle as a red Ford Mustang.

A witness was interviewed and told Steppe he and his girlfriend pulled into the parking lot to attend a birthday party and parked between a Volkswagen and an SUV. He noticed then that the Volkswagen was on fire and said he saw sparks falling onto the ground and the piece of T-shirt in the gas tank. The witness said when he backed his vehicle up and turned into the alley, he saw a red Mustang parked in the alley. The Mustang’s lights then came on and quickly turned onto Twohig Avenue.

After more witness and victim interviews and reviewing security camera footage from the O.C. Fisher Federal Building, Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office deputies went to Strube’s home and located the suspect and the Mustang. Steppe also went to the residence.

Strube granted Steppe permission to search the Mustang, where a white canvas bag marked “big bag of crazy” was found. The bag contained two large bags of kitchen matches, a small matchbook, a plastic glove, a kitchen knife, a paring knife, wire cutters, a garden tool and a flat-head screwdriver. Other items, including lighters were found in the vehicle. It was determined that the items located inside the vehicle would be consistent with damages to the Jetta.

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Strube at 2 p.m. June 7.