LaPorte County officials investigating cause of jail fire

2013-07-05T11:15:00Z 2013-07-05T19:00:10Z LaPorte County officials investigating cause of jail fireStan Maddux Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
July 05, 2013 11:15 am  • 

LAPORTEĀ | Investigators on Friday were still trying to find out how a inmate at the LaPorte County Jail set a mattress on fire in his cellblock.

LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer said video footage shows "a flare up" then a considerable amount smoke billowing from the holding cell.

Mollenhauer said the mattress is supposed to be flame retardant and mostly smoked but did not fully ignite.

"We just can't figure out what he used," said Mollenhauer.

The fire Thursday before 1 p.m. resulted in 30 to 40 inmates in two cell blocks being relocated to another secure division of the jail near the booking area for about two hours, until the smoke was cleared.

The man suspected of starting the mattress fire, Marzano Shelly, 35, was taken to the hospital and treated for minor smoke inhalation then released back to the jail later in the afternoon, Mollenhauer said.

The fire occurred in the segregation area of the jail reserved for prisoners with a record disciplinary problems.

Shelly was the lone occupant of the holding area where the fire started, Mollenhauer said.

LaPorte County Police Maj. John Boyd said investigators worked into the night and were back today probing for the cause.

He said the video shows a flare up but not the fire actually being set and Shelly being escorted out of the holding cell by staff members who used extinguishers to put out the flames.

Lighters and matches are banned from the jail.

In 2011, a mattress fire in the same cell block was started by wires in a ceiling fixture being touched to generate a spark that set a paper bag on fire.

The burning bag was used to set fire to the mattress and some other belongings in the holding cell.

Boyd said whether Shelly did something similar was not yet known.

"That's something we certainly want to know. We just aren't certain at this point," said Boyd.

Shelly is being held on charges of murder, robbery and other offenses related to the 2012 slaying of 73-year-old Charles Harper.

Harper was shot multiple times inside his home in the 1500 block of Elston Street on Michigan City's west side.

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