TURLOCK, CA - A fire at an abandoned cheese factory Tuesday night was not only arson, but attempted murder, Turlock police said.
When fire crews arrived at the scene on West Main and Tully streets around 7:19 p.m. Tuesday, they found the building engulfed in flames, Turlock police officer Mayra Lewis said.
Crews battled the fire for nearly two hours before getting it under control. Lewis said the fire started inside of the building and was considered suspicious.
On Wednesday, police arrested Lanette Sullivan, Wanda White and Erica Clardy for felony arson and attempted murder. Police said the three women, the male victim and several other homeless people were living in the factory. Police believe the victim got into an argument with one of the women, which turned into a fight with all three.
Sullivan, 46, said she is innocent during a jailhouse interview.
"Why am I sitting here then?" Sullivan questioned. "My sister did nothing. I did nothing wrong. I didn't set fire to it. They didn't set fire to it."
"In an attempt to protect himself, the victim went and hid in the rafters," Lewis said. "The responsibles all knew all he was up there and intentionally caused this fire."
"They're a liar," Sullivan said. "That's straight up a lie."
Sullivan admitted she was there that night. She said she got into a fight with her ex-boyfriend, which turned physical. Sullivan claimed she called her sister for help, but she said they went home before flames raced through the building.
"I took the bath, ate a spaghetti dinner with salad and fell asleep to be woke up asking if I would come down to the station and give a statement," Sullivan recounted.
Sullivan also said she thinks the fire was started accidentally.
"There was already a fire already started in there when I came in," Sullivan said. "They have campfires going in there that are taller than me."
Police and fire investigators said the women set items inside the building on fire. Everyone inside got out unharmed including the victim, who was able to escape before the building was fully engulfed. Police said the victim refused medical treatment.
Lewis said the victim's interview with police led to the arrests of the three women.