ST. GEORGE – Two missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were awoken abruptly at 12:30 this morning when their hostess, Madge Carpenter, knocked on their door crying, “Elders, elders – you need to get up, … your car’s on fire.”
Matthew Robinson and his fellow missionary are staying with the Carpenters at their home in the Middleton neighborhood.
Robinson said they went running downstairs and out the door where they saw police cars and firemen, fire hoses and the car being sprayed down.
The car, owned by the LDS Church for missionary use, was parked on the street near the Carpenter home at the 1000 N block of 2050 East, St. George.
Capt. James Van Fleet said St. George Police Department responded to a call around 12:30 a.m. and found a neighbor who had seen a couple of subjects running away who appeared to have a gasoline can in hand. The suspects were then seen leaving in a silver compact passenger car.
Carpenter had trouble sleeping that night and got up around 12:30 to make sausage.
“I heard a really loud noise outside,” Carpenter said, “and I thought ‘what on earth’ and then a car just went roaring up that hill, I mean I could hear it and I could see its tail lights, and I mean it was really moving up that hill, and I didn’t think anything about it, I figured, you know, there are some kids around here, some people who like to drive fast around here at night.”
Carpenter retired to the downstairs of her house until about a quarter to 1 a.m., when she said she realized there was loud noise outside.
“… so I got up and went upstairs and went to the front door, and my goodness outside there was a fire truck out there with its lights going and some of them was over here and I could see sparks flying, over here by missionaries’ car, and I thought what Is going on here?”
The Fire Department had arrived. Van Fleet said that after the fire was put out, investigators determined it was in fact arson.
Whitlee Roundy, a neighbor of the Carpenters, said, “We went out and saw a man from up the street who had come down, and then the car burst into flames.”
On being interviewed by the police, Robinson said, “(they) told us that there was a silver car that had came up and had some guys in it and they poured gasoline all over the car and lit it up and squalled off and took off. … They asked if anyone had anything against us or was angry with us. We said no, we get along with just everyone here.”
Robinson said that he does not know if he was personally targeted.
“I honestly couldn’t tell you. (The officers) said that it was probably just the location. It was right on the edge of the road and it was easy to hit it and go without being caught, so I don’t know if we were targeted.”
Van Fleet said that Det. Adam Olmstead who was on scene saw no indication that the arson was hate motivated or religiously motivated. “But we’re not ruling it out,” said Van Fleet, “it’s early in the investigation so it may bear some weight.”
Van Fleet also said that it is unknown whether there is any connection to the car fires started in the middle of the night back in October, or others before that. He said that also might be explored as the investigation goes forward.
Carpenter said, “It upsets me a lot that this kind of stuff is happening in our town where people have always been the kind of people who walk down the street and said hi to each other. This isn’t something that goes on in St. George. I wish that people would be decent and care about each other”
Anyone with information about this case should contact Det. Adam Olmstead of the St. George Police Department at (435) 627-4319.
St. George News reporter and photographer, Troy Hoskins, contributed to this story. Hoskins is related to Madge Carpenter, interviewed in this story.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.