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Woman faces arson charges for 2nd time

February 6, 2019

A Fort Wayne woman who set a fire on a college campus in 2017 is charged with setting another one in November at a store where she worked.

Brittney J. Ellert, 32, was sentenced last year to probation after setting fire in August 2017 to a trash can inside a parking garage at IPFW, now Purdue University Fort Wayne. She pleaded guilty to charges of institutional criminal mischief and criminal recklessness, and a judge also ordered her to pay nearly $18,000 to the university, according to court records.

An arson charge was dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

Ellert, of the 14300 block of Shore Oaks Cove, was still on probation when she allegedly set fire Nov. 29 to “plastics and other common combustibles” on the floor of a common storage area at a two-story commercial building on Coldwater Road that includes Touma’s Bridal Boutique and two other businesses. The fire caused more than $11,000 in damage, according to court documents.

She was charged Monday with arson in Allen Superior Court and faces up to 12 years in prison if she is convicted. She is scheduled to appear in court today for an initial hearing.

A security camera captured Ellert setting the fire in the 2017 case, and a Fort Wayne Fire Department investigator wrote in a probable cause affidavit filed Monday it wasn’t hard to connect her to the November incident.

Shortly after crews found “a pile of plastics and assorted trash badly melted and burned,” investigators learned a woman who worked at the store : Ellert : was on probation for the 2017 fire, District Chief Mark Schroeder wrote. Ellert was wearing an electronic monitoring device, and an Allen County Community Corrections officer said her last known location was at the store about 8:50 p.m. : about the time the fire was discovered, the affidavit states.

A “torch lighter” was found in Ellert’s purse after police went to her home, and she at first allegedly said she had been working at the store but left “at the same time she saw fire trucks,” investigators said. She said she had a key and used it to lock the door when she left, according to the affidavit.

Investigators interviewed a store employee, who reportedly said Ellert wasn’t working that night and didn’t have a key.

Ellert admitted to being at the store and referenced the fire in a Nov. 30 phone conversation with the employee that was recorded at Allen County Jail, court documents said. She allegedly asked about damage to the store and told the employee “your mom gave (the keys) to me. You must not have known ... OK ... you understand what I am saying.”

“The conversation sounded like it was some type of plot to misdirect or explain why Ms. Ellert was in the building and had keys,” Schroeder wrote in the affidavit.

Allen County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Mike McAlexander filed paperwork in December to revoke Ellert’s probation in the earlier case.

″(Ellert) violated the rules and conditions of probation by not maintaining good behavior by setting a fire ... on Nov. 29, 2018,” a petition to revoke probation states.

mleblanc@jg.net

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