AUSTIN (KXAN) - Austin Police Department has arrested and charged Patricia Hodges-Ramirez, 56, with arson in connection with a fire that happened just after 1 a.m. on Friday in a North Lamar Boulevard apartment building.
Austin Fire Department responded to report of a trash fire at 1316 Lamar Square Drive. When they arrived, fire crews found a small smoldering fire on the ground level of an apartment building. They found that the items which were burning came from the second floor balcony and had been moved to the ground by the first APD officer who arrived on the scene.
A witness told investigators that the fire was intentionally set and identified a photo of the suspect. The witness told police he moved into an apartment with Hodges-Ramiriez about three days earlier. They had met at Alcoholics Anonymous, he told police.
The witness told police that on the night of the fire, he got home about 8 p.m. The suspect, Hodges-Ramirez, told the witness she had been drinking and the witness said she continued to drink the rest of the night and into early morning hours, and that she would go in and out of the apartment. He told police he checked on her intermittently.
At one point, the witness left the apartment and saw a chair on fire two apartments down the hallway. He put out the fire with a portable fire extinguisher that was on an exterior wall at the building.
About 15 minutes later, the witness saw Hodges-Ramirez try to re-light the chair using a hand-held lighter, he told police, but it didn't light. She next allegedly tried to light a pile of clothing and a mattress, among other things, using the same lighter. The first attempt did not work, but the witness saw her try again and then smoke and a small fire started. It grew in size and intensity, according to the witness, and he moved the mattress from the pile.
The witness told police he asked Hodges-Ramirez, "Why are you trying to kill those people?" and her alleged response was, "Because they weren't any good."
According to the police report, earlier in the evening, the resident of the apartment where the fire burned had kicked Hodges-Ramirez out of the apartment, allegedly stating he believed that she suffered from a mental illness, that she was off her medication and intoxicated.
Fire investigators determined that the second fire had the potential to grow in size and intensity within a short period of time. Given its location in front of an apartment door, such a fire would have blocked all normal means of egress from it had the fire been allowed to burn. They determine the two fires were intentionally set.
Hodges-Ramirez did not return to the scene until 2 1/2 hours later. She allegedly denied her name and said she was not involved in the fires. However, the witness identified her to police as the person he saw lighting the fire.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg heads to court this week as a defendant in a civil trial that could oust her from office.
A 55-year-old man died in a single-vehicle crash just after midnight Monday morning near Lakeway.
More than 100 trees covered in lights now shine bright throughout Zilker Park. The Trail of Lights is open for another season.
A 10-year-old was killed while standing outside of a vehicle which lost control during the icy conditions, DPS said.
Travis County non-profit Center for Child Protection will benefit next March from an all day fundraiser at the Circuit of the Americas that will see plenty of donors racing on the track.
Late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, a light band of freezing drizzle traversed the I-35 corridor eastward. With sub-freezing temperatures, even the light precipitation created major problems.