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Woman accused of setting fire to Cape Coral home

By Staff | Apr 4, 2009

A Cape Coral woman intentionally set fire to a Cape Coral rental home Tuesday morning, according to an investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Dawn Marie Cinelli, 44, was charged with 1st-degree arson Friday after admitting to state investigators she had set fire to a bed in the home, located at 1770 Emerald Cove Circle, said city spokesperson Connie Barron.
Cinelli rented at the home with Brian Derby, though Cinelli was the only person in the home when the fire occurred at about 2:21 a.m., officials said. Neighbors said Derby and Cinelli had been renting at the home for approximately six months before the incident.
After 18 local firefighters and six fire units put out the fire, which had fully engulfed the home and caused about $200,000 in damages, they contacted the Lee County Arson Task Force and the State Fire Marshal’s Office to investigate the suspicious nature of the fire, Barron said.
“As a result of that investigation, the cause of the fire was determined to be arson,” Barron said.
Cinelli did not respond to an interview request by the Breeze.
During an interview between Cinelli and investigators, Cinelli reportedly admitted to setting fire to a bed in the home. Information as to a possible motive for the fire was not available Friday evening.
Cinelli initially told firefighters she awoke to a smoke alarm and fled the home.
Next-door neighbors Charles and Barbara Polandick called 911 after Cinelli knocked on their front door asking for help, they said.
“I feel sorry for her, I really do,” Barbara said of Cinelli Friday, after hearing of the alleged arson. “I hope she gets the help she needs in prison. I seem to think I guess a lot of people do things in rage. I don’t know, maybe there’s more to her life than we know.”
The Polandicks watched from outside Tuesday morning as the fire raging in Cinelli’s home licked at their house, at 1768 Emerald Cove Circle.
The flames melted a water purifier system that will cost the Polandicks $3,000 to replace, a phone box and roof tiles, as well as burned palm trees that will likely have to be removed, Barbara said.
Now the couple is going through the process of getting quotes for the roof damage and possibly being forced to file a claim with their insurance company, with a $1,000 deductible, she said.
“I said, ‘Why should I file a claim?'” Barbara said. “I’m not the one who burned my house down, practically.”
Despite the monetary headaches the fire has caused her, Barbara said she’s relieved no one was hurt and that the Cape Coral Fire Department acted quickly.
“I can’t thank the Fire Department enough for saving my home,” she said. “I’m just glad (Cinelli) woke up when she did.”
The homeowners, Lawrence and Catherine Dluhos of North Fort Myers, said they didn’t know Cinelli or Derby because the home was rented through a managing agency. The Dluhoses are in the process of filing a claim with their insurance company.
Cinelli was held in the Lee County Jail Friday evening without bond, according to jail booking records.
If convicted, Cinelli faces a possible maximum 30 years in prison for the crime.