RIVERSIDE – A Chicago woman was charged with aggravated arson Sunday after a fire was set in a Riverside apartment, police said.
Police were called to the apartment building on the 2900 block of Harlem Avenue to respond to a fire. A tenant of the building told officers he was awakened by a fire alarm, police said.
Another tenant discovered a small fire in a planter, and officers were alerted to a fire burning in an apartment on the second floor, police said. Members of the Riverside Fire Department responded to the scene and extinguished the blaze, police said.
Officers were told that a woman and her husband had been using the apartment for the past two weeks to use heroin, cocaine and marijuana; the apartment belonged to a tenant who had since moved out, police said. Police conducted an investigation and identified the woman.
Linda B. Lopez, 33, of the 2800 block of South Drake Avenue in Chicago, told investigators that she and her husband knew the former tenant and used the apartment because the rent was paid through the end of the month, police said. Lopez said that she and her husband had used the apartment to do drugs, police said.
Lopez started the fire in the apartment building after she and her husband had an argument, police said. She accused her husband of using some of her marijuana when she fell asleep, police said.
“The tenants inside the building are lucky to be alive," Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said in a news release issued Tuesday. "The two elderly tenants that live in the basement, both in their late 80s and early 90s, one is blind and the other is deaf. There's no possible way these individuals could have made it out of the apartment on their own if the building had become fully engulfed.”
Lopez was charged with one count of aggravated arson, police said. This is a Class X felony because there were tenants in the building at the time the fire was set, police said.
Although the Cook County State's Attorney's Office had requested bond to be set for Lopez at $500,000, Cook County Circuit Judge Ann Finley Collins set bond at $20,000 on Tuesday at the Maybrook courthouse in Maywood, police said. Weitzel said he was not happy with the judge's decision.
“The bond set by Judge Ann Finley Collins is bizarre," Weitzel said in the news release. "The apartment complex was occupied by tenants, and two of the tenants were elderly and had disabilities that would have made it almost impossible to escape the building had the fire spread. While I acknowledge that the defendant has no prior criminal history, the Class X felony charge demands a higher bond for the nature of the crime.”
Riverside police were assisted in their investigation by the WEDGE Gang and Drug Taskforce as they assisted in locating and taking into custody suspects and witnesses, police said.