By Rachel Dove
MATEWAN - A Mingo County sheriff’s deputy has arrested a Matewan woman after she allegedly set fire to a residence where her mother was staying, while carrying her 4-year-old son on her hip.
Brenda Lee Hinkle, 30, has been charged with first-degree arson and child neglect creating risk of injury, according to a criminal complaint filed in Mingo County Magistrate Court by Deputy P. Mounts.
According to a statement provided by Mounts, he received a call a few minutes after midnight Monday from Hinkle’s mother, who told police she had to flee her home and go to her next-door neighbor’s to escape her daughter’s wrath. The grandmother told police that her daughter was intoxicated and had refused to allow her young son to leave the house with his grandmother, and felt his safety could be compromised. The deputy was asked to go to the home and ask Hinkle to allow her son to be removed from the home by her brother, in exchange for not getting Child Protective Services involved.
While en route to the residence, Mounts said he was contacted by the Matewan Volunteer Fire Department, requesting his presence at the home of Opal and Larry Jackson, which he said was the location Hinkle’s mother had called 911 from for help. Mounts said he was informed that a fire had started in the crawlspace of the home and due, to eyewitness reports, the firefighters had a credible reason to suspect the fire was arson.
Upon arrival, Mounts said he spoke with Hinkle’s mother, who said the homeowners had seen the defendant standing outside the house, and a short time later heard what sounded like an explosion, then smelled smoke as it began to come up through the air-conditioning floor vents. The Jacksons told the deputy they had seen Hinkle prior to the fire, with her son on her hip, carrying something in her hand that she threw at the house before the explosion occurred, Mounts’ report stated.
Mounts said that, upon further questioning of the defendant, she allegedly admitted to throwing a homemade explosive device made from a piece of rubber hose that contained highly flammable materials under the crawlspace of the home because she was angry at her mother. Upon ignition, the device is said to have melted ductwork for the central heating and cooling pump, which allowed the smoke to enter the home. Mounts said that, thankfully, the fire also burned through a plastic water line which dumped water on the fire, extinguishing it before any further damage could be done. Minor damage was all that was reported, the deputy said.
Child Protective Services was contacted about the situation following the arrest of the defendant, and her son is now in the custody of his grandmother and uncle.
Hinkle appeared Monday morning in Mingo County Magistrate Court and was arraigned by Magistrate Pam Newsome. She was remanded to the custody of the Southwestern Regional Jail at Holden in lieu of $15,000 bond.