Reporting Laura Cole
TURLOCK (CBS13) – Three women have been arrested for attempted murder after an abandoned cheese factory burst into flames Tuesday night in Turlock.
“I did nothing wrong,” Lanette Sullivan said in a jail house interview. “I didn’t set fire to it; they didn’t set fire to it.”
Police say the women got into some sort of altercation with a man and, knowing he was still hiding in the rafters of the building, they set fire to it.
Sullivan, 46, Wanda White, 45, and Erika Clardy 24, were arrested for attempted murder and arson, police said. All three are described as transients. The man, whose name wasn’t released but identified as Sullivan’s ex-boyfriend, was not injured.
Multiple agencies were called to the scene of the 10,000-square-foot building as flames was consumed by flames, some shooting as high as 75 feet into the air, the Turlock Journal reported.
The fire was declared a crime scene by police Tuesday night but they didn’t elaborate as to why until Wednesday. Fire crews were called out about 7 p.m. and were still battling hot spots hours later.
“The verbal argument quickly turned into a physical confrontation,” said Turlock Officer Mayra Lewis.
Police say this all stemmed from a fight between Sullivan and her ex-boyfriend.
“Between me and him, we had a little fight and I got out. I called my sister, she came over to help me with him, just because he is afraid of her,” said Sullivan.
Detectives say the ex-boyfriend was so afraid of the trio that he hid in the rafters, while the women conspired to set the place on fire.
“Straight up a lie,” said Sullivan.
She says there was already a campfire going before she got here, and she claims none of her family started this blaze.
“I walked out with my dog, went home, took a bath, and fall asleep, only to be woke up today, being told I set fire to the cheese plant,” said Sullivan.
Police say the suspects and the victim were staying at the factory together, but Sullivan says she has a home and she had no reason to be staying there.
“I’m not a transient, neither is my sister or my niece,” she said.
She believes the fire was an accident.
“Standing up there was a Coleman camp light,” said Sullivan.
She thinks that may be the cause, but for now, she’s behind bars claiming she’s locked up for a crime she didn’t commit.
“I think that whoever said this is maliciously trying to, I don’t know, if they are trying to see me and my sister put away,” said Sullivan.
The three suspects are facing charges of arson and attempted murder.
CBS13 did put in requests to speak with White and Clardy, but they declined an interview.
Police believe there may be additional people involved in the fire. Anyone with any information is asked to call Det. Frank Navaro with the Turlock Police Department at (209) 668-5550, ext. 6619.