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Neighborhood on edge as Middlebury arson investigation continues

MIDDLEBURY, Ind. – Fear and anxiety are still in the air in Pine Hills Mobile Home Park off of State Road 120 after a series of suspicious fires that remain unsolved.

Since March, six fires have been started damaging sheds, cars and homes.  The most recent happened on Sunday, flames completely destroyed Brian Mill’s car and scorched the rear of his home.

“You don’t think it’s going to happen to you and then it does,” Mills described, looking at the damage.  “I mean it’s quiet out here and then this happens and it makes you wonder.”

Mills said neighbors are only becoming more fearful, some have started carrying out their own security patrols.  On one occasions he said he’d seen people in a heated argument about who may be starting the fires.

“They don’t want any vigilante coming around here, which I can understand that,” Mills explained.  “I don’t want to see somebody get hurt that was cutting through a yard or something like that.”

Since the first fires residents have voiced frustration that the arsonist has not been caught and some claim the police aren’t doing enough to keep the neighborhood safe.  So, ABC57 decided to get answers from the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department.

“Maybe they have perception that they’re not seeing us, but the reality is that since March we’ve done our part to be proactive on this,” explained Capt. Jim Bradberry.  “We’ve been there and we’re continuing to be there.”

Bradberry said he didn’t want to release too many details about the investigation for fear of tipping of whoever is starting the fires.  But, he said police are continuing to pour over evidence and patrol the area because they too want the arsonist caught.

“We’re lucky that nobody’s got hurt yet,” Bradberry explained.  “What I fear is that when these fires are set, what happens if people don’t wake up until it’s too late.”

Bradberry said the department is asking for tips from the public about the fires.

“Any information, whether they think it’s really small or not,” explained Bradberry.  “We would like to use that to at least take a look at it and talk to people.”

On Monday, Brian Mills said the Middlebury Fire Department handed out flyers offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, he also said people in Pine Hills are offering their own reward which he estimated is around $2,000.

The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department can be contacted at 574.533.4151

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