On June 6, around 5 a.m., the Clay County Sheriff's Department received a 911 call advising of a residence on fire at 6815 West Public Road in Coalmont. The Lewis Township Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to the scene and arrived seven minutes later to find the structure fully engulfed with fire coming through the roof.
The fire was extinguished, but the home was a total loss.
The residence was owned by Samantha Bascom, 34, of Coalmont, but the home was being rented or sold on contract to Dee Robertson and her husband Keith. Dee and Keith were in the process of moving from the home at the time of the fire and still had around $10,000 dollars worth of property left within it. Nobody was home at the time of the incident.
Lewis Township Fire Chief Brian Husband called the Sheriff's Department and reported that he thought the fire seemed suspicious, asking for a deputy to assist. Sergeant Rob Gambill was dispatched to the scene. Gambill and Husband surveyed the fire scene and then began meeting with people connected to the residence.
During the course of the investigation a juvenile male came forward with his mother and claimed he had set the fire. The juvenile reported that Bascom and her juvenile son had developed a plan to burn the home for insurance money. The juvenile said Bascom's son told him of the plan and he asked to be involved. He said Bascom said she would also pay him $500 when the insurance paid off on the home.
The juvenile said Bascom provided them with candles and gloves to start the fire. He reported that he stayed on Bascom's property on the evening of June 5 and during the early morning hours of June 6, he and the other juvenile went to the modular home and entered it using a key provided by Bascom. The juvenile reported that they lit the candles and used them to catch fire to newspapers and clothing left in the home.
He said that after the fire started they retreated a distance and watched the residence to see if it was going to burn. After waiting a short time they returned to the home to check and saw that a fire was burning on the inside. Another juvenile came forward and told Gambill that Bascom had tried to recruit him to burn down the home. This juvenile said she offered to pay him $500 if he would burn it down for her. He said he refused to become involved with the plot but did hear Bascom talking to the other two about the plan.
Gambill later interviewed Bascom about the fire. She initially denied knowing how it started. Eventually, she admitted to offering the juveniles $500 to start the fire. She said she told them to make sure nobody got injured and nobody got in trouble. Bascom said the older of the two started to tell her some of the facts about the fire but she did not want to know any of the details so she could not get in trouble if questioned by police. She also admitted to purchasing and delivering candles to the juveniles for use in the fire.
She said that after she did everything she hoped the juveniles would not go through with the plan but never asked them to stop.
Bascom was arrested and charged with Arson as a class B felony. Charges have been signed by the court and bond is set at $25,000 cash only. An investigator from the Indiana State Fire Marshal's office will also investigate the scene of the fire today.