An Arvada, Colorado, woman was charged Friday morning with setting a pair of fires at the Bel Air Motel late Thursday night in Monroe City.
Shellie Dee Clark, 62, was charged with first-degree arson, a Class B felony that carries a five- to 15-year sentence, by Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Talley Kendrick. She was held in the Randolph County Jail on $50,000 bond.
Chief Tyler Wheeler said that Monroe City Police officers were called to the Bel Air Motel just after 11 p.m. to assist the Monroe City Fire Department, which was responding to a 9-1-1 call reporting a fire in one of the rooms.
Green said that when officer Jonathan T. Pugh arrived at the motel, he made immediate contact with motel owner Umesh Patel, who told him the woman renting the room on fire was in the lobby.
“I made contact with the woman named Shellie D. Clark,” Pugh wrote in a report. “Clark advised me that she lit a candle and fell asleep and believes that is what started the fire.”
Pugh said that he left Clark in the office and returned to the row of rooms where the fire was still burning to help Patel evacuate motel guests. Then, Pugh said that he was informed by another officer that the motel lobby was on fire.
“After reviewing the camera footage of the lobby, I observed Clark use a lighter to attempt to light a live plant on fire,” Pugh wrote in his report. “After a failed attempt of this, Clark lit an artificial bouquet of flowers on fire. After watching approximately one minute of the fire burn, Clark exited the lobby to the outside and to a chair.”
Chief Wheeler said that Clark was sitting in the chair, casually smoking a cigarette, when Pugh placed her under arrest, eventually taking her to the Monroe City Police station and jail, where she was booked at 4 a.m. on Friday.
Wheeler said that a couple who lived on Route J came home Friday night to find Clark in their house.
“Rather than call the police, they took her to the motel,” Wheeler said.
Pugh said that when the state fire marshal arrived on scene, he determined that the fire started in the motel room began near a table on the west wall,” Pugh wrote. The fire marshal determined that the fire was caused by arson, Pugh said.
Clark allegedly told police that she was “partying” in the room before the fire started.
“We are not sure about the party, but it seems that alcohol played a role this,” Wheeler said.
On Friday afternoon, the Bel Air Motel lobby was cordoned off with yellow police crime scene tape, while the row of rooms where the fire was allegedly set stood empty.
Patel, who has owned the motel for seven years, surveyed the burned-out room that Clark had rented and shook his head. Patel said that all the rooms on that side of the motel had been damaged by either fire or smoke.
The timing could not be worse for his business.
“We are normally filled up with hunters,” Patel said as his voice trailed off.