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Woman charged with arson, using her mail to ignite fire

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VERNDEN, Okla. - Investigators in Grady County have been on the hunt for an arsonist.

Authorities in the town of Verden were called to fire after fire and time after time they said the evidence pointed to one woman.

Downtown Verden is made up of only a handful of buildings but a few are missing these days.

It all started when someone set an old gas station on fire.

Left at the scene was a piece of mail with a woman's name on it, Nelda Wallace of Verden.

"During the course of the investigation the fire marshal determined that piece of mail that had her name, her address, had actually been used to start the fires," Grady County Assistant District Attorney Cortnie Cain said.

So investigators contacted her but Wallace said she did not know how her mail ended up at the scene of the fire.

A month passed and not only did that same building catch fire again but three other buildings in town did, too.

Wallace may have gotten away with the first fire but things started getting kind of obvious when the second time around the only surveillance cameras in town captured her vehicle circling the crime area.

After a second fire, Wallace was once again tied to the scene.

Police said her green van could clearly be seen in several surveillance video shots.

"They also reviewed surveillance and did see Ms. Wallace's vehicle leaving the scene of the fires," Cain said.

Investigators contacted Wallace and she told them the van in the video belonged to her and that she "was looking for her dog" and that "she had a package at the post office" to pick up but it was Sunday.

Then a third fire ignited and court records state witnesses said they "saw Nelda at the back door prior to the fire" and that she "was doing something at the back door."

Investigators said the back door was charred and found a burnt rag nearby. 

When police confronted Wallace, she told them she was there to mow the lawn.

"At that point investigators kind of put two and two together which eventually led to Ms. Wallace's arrest," Cain said. "It's not very often that a suspect leaves basically their identity at the scene."

Wallace never admitted to setting the fires.

However, she was charged with three felony counts of arson.