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Team coverageA woman who claimed to be helping Ogden police find an arsonist now admits she started at least four of the 10 fires in abandoned homes.
Police arrested 47-year-old Marianne Mancuso last night, just a few hours before firefighters discovered flames at another house in the area. Police think she might have set the house on 373 18th St. on fire before she was arrested, and that it smoldered for hours before flames were visible.
Officers say Mancuso was present at most, if not all, of the fires and that she even reported one of them.
On Oct. 8 after the fourth house fire on Kiesel Avenue she told an Eyewitness News photographer, "I think it's an arsonist."
The photographer then asked her if she wanted them to stop. She replied, "Yeah, stop it. Let it go. Let Ogden City take care of it, demolish these houses."
Ogden police say Mancuso admitted she wanted the houses demolished. "In her interview, she said she acted alone in her involvement to speed the river project up," said Sgt. Kyle Bosgieter, with the Ogden Major Crimes Bureau.
That's similar to what she told our photographer during that same interview on Oct 8.
"My thoughts are that they need to demolish these houses ‘cause this is the river project, and somebody's trying to burn them down," Mancuso said.
The Ogden River Project is a mixed-use development that will take up 51 acres of downtown Ogden. The homes where the fires have occurred will eventually all be demolished.
Officials admit progress on the project has slowed, but they say burning down homes won't speed anything up.
"Given the state of the economy, it might be years before we're in that phase of that project," said John Patterson, Ogden City's chief administrative officer.
Mancuso's arrest came as a surprise to neighbors. "I just don't understand what the motives are. Why would you want to risk other people's lives?" neighbor Shannon Sandoval said.
Mancuso said almost the same thing two weeks ago. "We live here. It could catch fire. It could kill us. They could burn all our houses down," she said.
Officers worked to gather evidence against Mancuso all last week. They think there might be another suspect out there as well. They aren't naming anyone yet, but are interviewing several people.
Mancuso was booked into Weber County Jail on four counts of arson, which is a second-degree felony.
The Ogden Fire Department estimates it has spent nearly $100,000 fighting the fires set on Kiesel Avenue by Mancuso.