By Larry Phillips
· Daily Leader
In a bizarre twist to a duplex fire that injured a grandmother and her 4-year-old grandchild and endangered two other toddlers, who were also her grandchildren the grandmother has been arrested for arson and second degree attempted murder.
Michelle A. Salgado, 39, had her first appearance in district court Monday afternoon and now faces four felony counts, according to Seward County Assistant Attorney Nicolas Porter.
"Count 1 is aggravated arson, which is a Level 3 person felony," Porter said. "And Counts 2 through 4 are attempted second degree murder a Level 4 person felony."
Porter confirmed the allegations stemmed from a Sept. 29 fire at a duplex at 511 W. Second St., where three children ages infant to 4 years old and a then-unidentified woman were rescued by emergency responders.
"That is correct," Porter said.
The great-grandmother of the children, Lucy Cazares, said the police were making a mistake in charging her daughter, Salgado.
"They are crazy. There is no way she started a fire on purpose," Cazares said. "I think it might have been my (great-)grandson (the 4-year-old),
because he has started a fire before."
In that fire, according to an Oct. 1 press release from Liberal Fire Chief Kelly Kirk, the department responded to a residential structure fire with confirmed occupants at 11:45 a.m. (Sept. 29). Seward County Sheriff Deputy Ryan McVey was first on the scene and was able to rescue several occupants from the home.
"At the time of the fire, only one-half of the duplex residence was occupied by an adult female and three children ranging in ages from infant to 4 years," Kirk said. "An on-duty deputy from the Seward County Sheriff's Department was in the area and arrived prior to the arrival of any additional emergency units. Deputy McVey was able to successfully remove the adult female and two of the children from the first floor of the burning residence."
Liberal fire fighters, with the assistance of Liberal police officers, Seward County Sheriff's deputies and Seward County EMS personnel, were able to locate and rescue a 4-year-old child from the basement of the residence,Kirk said.
"At this time, at least two of the occupants, the adult female (Salgado) and 4-year-old child, have been transported by air ambulance to a trauma center in Wichita," Kirk said.
Both victims have returned home, and a benefit fund has been established for the three children through Cazares, who is raising the children and works at Southwest Medical Center.
Kirk added in his initial report that an investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing and that investigators had determined the area of the fire's origin, but had "yet to determine an exact cause."
Further investigation has resulted in the allegations and subsequent charges against Salgado.
Salgado is currently in custody under a $150,000 bond, according to Porter.
Her next court appearance will be a scheduling hearing set for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 5.
"She has been appointed a public defender," Porter added.