Stolen vehicle recovered at site of LH blaze
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
"As Paul Harvey used to say, 'Now you've got the rest of the story'," said Chief Deputy of the Bandera County Sheriff's Office.
The denouement occurred on Friday, Nov. 1, after emergency dispatch received a call that a couple was apparently living in mobile home that had been the scene of a fire on Saturday, Oct. 19.
Cpl. Kasey Young arrived at the 100 block of Agape Lane in Lakehills at 7 am. He found a man and woman had seemingly set up housekeeping in the mobile home's single room that had not been completely ravaged by the conflagration. They entered and exited the burnt-out structure through a window. The couple had even reconnected power to the partially destroyed mobile home.
According to King, employees with the Bandera Electric Cooperative disconnected power the day of the fire due to possible involvement of power lines.
When Young confronted the couple on Nov. 1, a black 2008 Ford Fusion was parked in front of the partially destroyed mobile home.
After Young routinely ran the license plates on the car, he discovered that the vehicle had been reported as stolen in Harris County. When questioned, the woman told Young that someone, named "Flo" had given her permission to drive the vehicle.
As it turned out however, "Flo" was not the registered owner of the Fusion. Young finally contacted the owner, who confirmed that the car had been stolen and he indicated he wanted the suspects prosecuted.
Young then arrested Erin Lea Stewart, 33, of Castroville, charging her with felony unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Her unidentified companion, who was apparently related to the owners of the mobile home, was not arrested. Stewart bonded out of the county jail the next day.
According to County Fire Marshal John Stith, when firefighters with the Medina Lake Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene, flames were already shooting out the front door. "The occupants had gone to the store and when they returned, their home was on fire," Stith said in an interview on Monday, Nov. 4. The couple was unable to save a pet trapped in the burning structure.
He speculated that the blaze had been accidental, perhaps from a cigarette smoldering in a chair. "The origin was not electrical in nature," Stith said.
"The fire was contained to the living room and kitchen, which were 100 percent destroyed," he said, adding that heat and smoke damage to the bedrooms made the house "not salvageable."