Cops Use Potato to Crack Arson Case

Suspect allegedly stuffed it into a vehicle's tailpipe
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2016 12:26 PM CDT
Cops Use Potato to Crack Arson Case
Not the DNA-yielding potato.   (Shutterstock)

Connecticut police knew they were dealing with arson. What they didn't know was who was responsible—until a DNA test on a potato provided a break in the case. Willow Martin, 19, was charged Tuesday with several crimes including arson and burglary after a September 2015 fire at a masonry company in Prospect, reports the Hartford Courant. Police say Martin befriended Breonna Constantino—the stepdaughter of the business owner—while both were working at a strip club. But when Constantino failed to repay all of $1,200 Martin had loaned her, police say Martin set fire to her stepdad's business, causing $450,000 in damage, per the Republican American. Investigators soon discovered the fire was started with gasoline, but it was a potato stuffed into the tailpipe of the owner's van that eventually led them to Martin.

The owner turned the potato over to police, and tests revealed the DNA of 28-year-old Matthew Garguilo, who just happened to be Willow's boyfriend at the time. Police say Garguilo confessed that he watched Martin break into the business—which had to be destroyed along with a neighboring restaurant, per the New York Daily News—start the fire inside, and stuff the potato into the van’s tailpipe in an attempt to make it blow up, reports WTNH. Garguilo claimed Martin acted alone, though he said he did handle the potato, police say. He also said Martin had previously set a fire at her mother's house, though fire officials blamed an electrical issue, reports He's charged with conspiracy to commit arson and conspiracy to commit burglary, while Martin is being held on $110,000 bail. (More weird crimes stories.)

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