News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Top Story 2

March 4, 2010

Accused arsonist faces multiple felony counts

Wagle accused of tossing Molotov cocktails to start fires

TERRE HAUTE — A man accused of using Molotov cocktails to set two fires in retaliation against a former girlfriend now faces felony arson charges related to fires that endangered six people, including two small children.

Joseph Andrew Wagle, 30, appeared in police custody in Vigo Superior Court 6 on Thursday, where Judge Pro Tem Brad Bough found probable cause for his arrest on four class-B felony arson charges and one class-A misdemeanor count of criminal mischief.

“This could easily be charges with six counts of attempted murder,” said arson investigator Norm Loudermilk prior to the court hearing.

Loudermilk said Wagle was aware that people would be asleep inside the home at 528 S. Seventh St., because Wagle had recently been kicked out of the residence by his former girlfriend. When the fire broke out, his former girlfriend was not at home. But her parents were asleep in the upstairs apartment, along with her two children, ages 4 months and 2 years.

“Had that landlord not had a smoke alarm, the two kids would be dead,” Loudermilk said. As it was, a family pet did die in the fire.

Loudermilk told the Tribune-Star that Wagle confessed to him Wednesday about arson fires on Feb. 27 and March 2 after Wagle was arrested on a warrant for a small claims case. Wagle was taken to Terre Haute Police headquarters, where he gave a voluntary statement about the arsons.

In the Feb. 27 incident, Wagle allegedly walked from his home in the 1500 block of North 26th Street to a Jiffy Mini Mart at 25th Street and Eighth Avenue where, Loudermilk said, he bought 50 cents worth of gasoline that he put into an empty 20-ounce Mountain Dew bottle. He then stoppered the bottle with a rag. Wagle’s actions were allegedly captured on video surveillance at the business.

With the loaded bottle in one pocket and a brick in another pocket, Loudermilk said, Wagle walked across the city to the home in the 500 block of South Seventh Street, where he allegedly threw the brick through a window in a stairwell. He then allegedly lit the Molotov cocktail and threw it through the broken window into some boxes and storage containers. The fire shot up the stairwell, Loudermilk said, trapping the upstairs occupants in their residence.

  One downstairs occupant of the duplex happened to be awake and heard the window crash when the brick was tossed. Moments later, he and his girlfriend saw smoke and escaped the dwelling.

Luckily, the woman asleep in the upstairs apartment heard the smoke detector and woke up her husband, Loudermilk said, and they grabbed the two grandchildren and exited onto a front porch balcony on the home. A cab driver who happened to be nearby saw the fire and assisted the family by catching the two grandchildren and helping the adults when they jumped from the balcony.

Shortly after the fire department arrived at the scene, the front porch collapsed, Loudermilk said. Fortunately, the firefighters had not yet advanced to the front porch, or they would have been injured by the falling debris.

Two days later, Wagle allegedly took the same action as he filled another pop bottle with gasoline and walked to a home in the 1800 block of North 23rd Street. Loudermilk testified in court that Wagle lit the rag in the gas-filled bottle and then placed it under the front seat of a 1979 Ford. That vehicle was used by the boyfriend of Wagle’s former girlfriend, Loudermilk said, and it was owned by the boyfriend’s mother. The fire from the auto spread to houses on either side of the burning car. Two people occupied one of the homes and were able to escape the fire. The other house happened to be vacant at the time.

Both of those homes received substantial damage, Loudermilk said, and the car was destroyed.

Authorities considered Wagle a suspect in the arsons because of his alleged recent harassment against the former girlfriend and her family, the arson investigator said. The victims cooperated with the investigation by helping lure him to the area with text messages, at which time police arrested him on the small claims warrant.

Some of the victims of the arsons appeared in the courtroom Thursday afternoon to witness Wagle’s hearing. However, two of those people were escorted from the courthouse prior to the hearing after verbal outbursts and gestures were exchanged with Wagle, who was handcuffed on the jail inmate chain.

The judge found probable cause for Wagle’s arrest and set his bail at $150,000 cash only. Charges are to be formalized Tuesday afternoon in court. Wagle was also ordered not to have any contact with any of the alleged victims or property owners involved.

Wagle has a criminal history that includes possession of a handgun without a license, possession of marijuana and receiving stolen property, and he has served prison time in the Indiana Department of Correction.

Meanwhile, one of the cab drivers who assisted in the rescue of the children happened to live near the incident on South Seventh Street.

Steve Rickard and Rena Lallow were making a shift change when they saw what they thought was a fire inside a hallway of the home.

“Within seconds, it was engulfed,” Lallow told the Tribune-Star on Thursday. She said she called 911 to report the fire while she and Rickard went up to the house to make sure people inside were alerted to the fire. The first-floor occupants exited, but the second-story occupants were trapped.

“She came to the balcony with the baby,” Lallow said of the grandmother, “and her husband climbed over and hung on with one arm while he took the baby from her and dropped it to Steve. Steve caught the baby and handed it to me, and then Steve caught the 2-year-old and set it down.”

Lallow said Rickard also helped catch the woman when she jumped from the balcony, but she did not see the man jump to safety.

“We could see the balcony was ready to drop,” Lallow said. “I was trying to get them away from there.”

She took the four out to the cab and turned on the heat, where they waited while arriving firefighters battled the blaze. “They weren’t hurt, so we sat there for a while.”

Lallow said she has been employed at the cab company for two years, while Rickard has worked there several years. “He said to me, ‘I caught ’em real soft’ about the babies,” Lallow said, recalling her co-worker’s comments following the rescue.

The actions of those two employees has been applauded by coworkers at Terre Haute Cab Co.

“It was a very, very good deed,” dispatcher Alonzo Van Horn said. “They happened to switch shifts at the right time, and they saw the fire.”

Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Top Story 2
  • MET 041314 PAINT PARTY.jpg Going purple: ‘Honoring those who are still fighting’ against cancer

    Every stroke of paint that touched the roadway had a profound meaning to a small group of painters on Sunday.

    April 13, 2014 4 Photos

  • Ukraine_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Tuesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, April 8:

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • NCAA Kentucky UConn F_Tayl.jpg UConn wins NCAA title, 60-54, over Kentucky

    No conference wanted them. Several teammates and their coach left them. The NCAA wouldn’t have them.
    UConn won it all anyway.

    April 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • TV-Letterman Retiring_Ter .jpg Letterman’s departure will reshape late-night

    NEW YORK (AP) — Jimmy Fallon’s fast start replacing Jay Leno on the “Tonight” show the past two months had a secondary effect: David Letterman suddenly seemed old.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Colts Owner Arrested _Ter .jpg Police: Colts owner had $29K in cash when arrested

    CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay had $29,000 in cash and bottles of prescription drugs in his vehicle when he was arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving, according to a police arrest report.

    March 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malaysia Plane_Ter .jpg UPDATE: Relatives sob as Malaysia confirms plane is lost

    BEIJING (AP) — Relatives shrieked and sobbed uncontrollably. Men and women nearly collapsed, held up by loved ones. Their grief came pouring out after 17 days of waiting for definitive word on the fate of the passengers and crew of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

    March 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Chicago Train_Ter .jpg Train derails, climbs escalator at Chicago airport

    CHICAGO (AP) — An eight-car Chicago commuter train plowed across a platform and scaled an escalator at an underground station at one of the nation’s busiest airports early today, injuring 32 people on board, officials said.

    March 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Snohomish Mudslide_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Monday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, March 24:

    March 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • NYC Explosion_Ter .jpg Searchers scour rubble after blast kills 7

    NEW YORK (AP) — Rescuers working amid gusty winds, cold temperatures and billowing smoke pulled four additional bodies overnight from the rubble of two Manhattan apartment buildings, as the death toll rose today, to at least seven from a gas leak-triggered explosion.

    March 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Film Casting Jesus_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Friday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, March 7:

    March 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • US Obama Ukraine Russ_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Tuesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, March 4:

    March 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • 86th Academy Awards -_Ter (2).jpg ‘12 Years a Slave’ wins best picture at Oscars

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Perhaps atoning for past sins, Hollywood named the brutal, unshrinking historical drama “12 Years a Slave” best picture at the 86th annual Academy Awards.

    March 3, 2014 2 Photos

  • MET030114swope shaffer.jpg VIDEO: Mardi Gras at the Swope

    Teresa Shaffer was handing out beads and masks at the Swope Art Museum's Mardi Gras celebration Saturday night. The event is an annual fundraiser for the downtown museum.

    March 1, 2014 2 Photos 1 Video

  • Married Priest_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Friday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, Feb. 28:

    February 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Planet Bonanza_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Thursday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, Feb. 27:

    February 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Backyard Gold Bonanza_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Wednesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, Feb. 26:

    February 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obit Ramis_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Tuesday

    Harold Ramis, creator of comedy classics, dies at 69. The writer-director-actor created a hugely influential body of work, including such films as “Caddyshack,” “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day.”

    February 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Nets Lakers Basketbal_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Monday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, Feb. 24:

    February 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Protests_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Friday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, Feb. 21:

    February 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • 21 To Smoke_Morg (1).jpg Colorado, Utah move to hike smoking age to 21

    DENVER — Two Western states with some of the nation's lowest smoking rates are considering cracking down even more by raising the tobacco age to 21.

    February 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • TV Fallons First Nigh_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Tuesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, Feb. 18:

    February 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Switzerland Plane Div_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Monday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, Feb. 17:

    February 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama US France_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Wednesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, Feb. 12:

    February 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Economy_Morg.jpg U.S. employers add 113K jobs; rate dips to 6.6 pct.

    WASHINGTON — Hiring was surprisingly weak in January for the second straight month, likely renewing concern that the U.S. economy might be slowing after a strong finish last year.

    February 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Sochi Olympic_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Thursday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, Feb. 6:

    February 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET020514snowzimmerman.jpg Vigo schools on 2-hour delay Thursday

    Vigo County students will be back to school Thursday.
    According to Vigo County School Corp. Superintendent Danny Tanoos, schools will be on a two-hour delay on Thursday.
    Due to inclement weather, schools were canceled today in Vigo and surrounding counties.

    February 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • CVS Caremark Tobacco _Ter .jpg Obama praises CVS for pulling tobacco from shelves

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is praising CVS Caremark for its decision to stop selling tobacco products at its drugstores.

    February 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • Winter Weather NYC 10 things to know for Wednesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, Feb. 5:

    February 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET 020414 HEAVY SNOWFALL.jpg Here we snow again: More winter weather hits the Wabash Valley

    Police and rescue workers were busy Tuesday night responding to crashes and slide-offs in the wake of another big snowfall in the Wabash Valley.

    February 5, 2014 2 Photos 2 Stories

  • Winter Weather Pennsy_Ter .jpg 10 Things to Know for Tuesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today, Feb. 4:

    February 4, 2014 1 Photo

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Popular Science Honors Year's Top Inventions Human Antidepressants Making Shrimp Too Calm Swiss Unveil New Solar Plane for Global Flight Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Miley Cyrus Still in Hospital, Cancels 2nd Show NASA Releases Images of "graceful" Solar Flare
NDN Video
Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity