ALEXANDRIA, Va. — After more than two dozen fires in 10 months in a high-rise apartment building here, authorities have arrested a woman who has lived in the complex for 35 years.
Shirley Ann Vigneua, 73, admitted to setting 25 fires in the Southern Towers Stratford apartment building in this District of Columbia suburb since May, but so far has been charged with arson in one blaze, said Thomas Faison, a special agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"She was caught on video going in and out of an area right at the time a fire was set," he said Thursday about a fire set Tuesday on the seventh floor of the building. "She was known to the investigators because they've been there many, many times investigating, speaking to many residents of the building and they recognized her."
The fires under investigation always had been set in public areas such as stairwells, trash rooms or elevators with matches and paper or cardboard, often at night, officials said. Residents faced repeated evacuations of the building that has more than 450 apartments. No one ever was injured, but many were relieved that an arrest had been made.
The blazes did about $50,000 in damage, officials said. Because the fires were set in an occupied building, the charge is a felony.
While the 73-year-old did confess to lighting the fires, she didn't state a motive, Faison said. He would not comment on her mental state.
She lived alone and has no known family in Northern Virginia, according to The Washington Post.