Fire departments in Elyria and Lorain are working to investigate whether seven house fires over the last 17 years can be tied to Trista Mussell and her mother.
Last week, police said Mussell admitted to Elyria police that she set the Jan. 2 fire in a four-unit apartment complex on West River Road South that left two units uninhabitable. Mussell’s mother, Kimberly Trosper, previously was convicted of arson in 2000, according to Lorain Fire Marshal Matt Homolya.
Homolya said on Tuesday that investigators think they can tie four additional fires to Mussell and three to Trosper going back to 1999.
Mussell, 32, was living in the complex with her four children. She told police that she caused that fire because “she was upset that her apartment was filthy and there were cockroaches,” said Elyria police Capt. Chris Costantino.
Mussell was charged with aggravated arson charge initially and was being held Tuesday in Lorain County Jail on $100,000 bond. Her attorney, JD Tomlinson, said she waived her right to a preliminary hearing and the case has been forwarded to a county grand jury for consideration.
Costantino said Mussell admitted to setting some papers on fire with a lighter. Her children were with her at the time, along with Trosper and her boyfriend.
Homolya would not pinpoint the locations of the additional fires under investigation.
Melana Adkins, who lived in the complex with her husband and four children ages 7, 5, 3, and 11 months, was not home when the Jan. 2 blaze broke out. Adkins said during a phone call Tuesday that she knew Mussell and tried to warn her landlord about renting to her, but it was already too late.
“He had already offered (the apartment) to her,” Adkins said.
Adkins is now in a hotel with her family with help from the Red Cross. She hopes to get back home by the end of the month. She said her bathroom caught fire along with a dresser filled with their clothes.
“They’re just a little confused as to why they can’t go home,” Adkins said of her children.
Steve Parker also was displaced from the complex. He said he lost everything including clothes, furniture and his toys for his children.
Parker said he and his ex-wife, DeJonna Williams, had helped Mussell in 2014 when she posted on a Facebook group looking for furniture after another place where she was staying caught fire.
“Two years prior, we had given her couches,” Williams said. “I honestly was shocked. It’s a very sad situation. … I hope they can resolve these issues and get justice for the other families affected.”
Mussell spoke to The Chronicle-Telegram in July when a fire broke out at a four-unit complex at 1127 W. Erie Ave., where she was living at the time. She said then that she wasn’t home at the time of that fire and that she didn’t know what caused it.