Four families displaced after resident admitted to setting fire to Elyria apartment building

Posted at 11:15 PM, Jan 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-05 06:09:59-05

An Elyria woman told police she intentionally set fire to her apartment building because her apartment was “filthy and there were cockroaches.”  

The incident happened Monday afternoon at a four-family complex at 6215 West River Road South. 

Residents told News 5 Trista Mussell, 32, had been living in the building for a few months with her four children. 

Neighbor Tarra Crofts said she saw Mussell leaving the building in a hurry, calling for her kids to get in the car. 

“No sooner did she leave I heard smoke detectors going off,” Crofts told News 5. 

Only one tenant, Dana Smith, was home at the time with her two young sons. Crofts and another neighbor alerted Smith to the fire and tried to control the flames with a fire extinguisher until emergency responders arrived on the scene. 

All of the apartments were damaged, with the worse damage to the apartments on the top floor. 

“I can’t understand why anybody on this earth would set their own house on fire, let alone a building,” Smith told News 5. 

Elyria police said Mussel admitted to using a lighter to set papers on fire in the stairwell of the apartment complex.

Residents like Smith said they are devastated.

"This was the only place that we have to live," she said. "Now we have nowhere, nowhere at all."  

Russell was charged with aggravated arson and ordered not to have any contact with the building or its residents. The court also ordered a safety evaluation prior to her next hearing. 

Residents said the American Red Cross has helped with temporary shelter while the units are being fixed, but Go Fund Me accounts have been set up to help replace everything they lost.  

Mussell’s next hearing in Elyria Municipal Court is set for Jan. 5.