LANSING — Police have arrested a woman they have identified as the primary suspect in the recent arsons at the Lansing Walmart and Highland Meijer stores, in which fires were set to create a distraction so shoplifters could get away, authorities said.
Heather Weeden, a 46-year-old Ford Heights woman, was arrested on charges of aggravated arson and retail theft in connection to the Jan. 7 arson that temporarily shut down the Walmart superstore at 17625 Torrence Ave., just south of Interstate 80/94.
"The fires were quickly extinguished, and no injuries were reported. During the course of the investigation, it was discovered that the fires were intentionally set as a distraction to commit a retail theft from inside the store," Lansing police Detective Lt. Scott Bailey said. "A similar incident occurred three days later at Meijer, located in Highland, Indiana. The Lansing Police Department, Lansing Fire Department investigators and investigators from Highland, Indiana, conducted a joint investigation and determined the two incidents were related."
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The Lake County prosecutor's office previously charged Jerry L. Pierson, a 35-year-old Chicago Heights man, with arson and theft in connection with the Jan. 10 arson at the busy Highland Meijer on Indianapolis Boulevard across from the Highland Grove Shopping Center. Pierson was in custody in Will County on a warrant and set to be extradited to Indiana.
He identified a woman he knew only as "Six" as his accomplice in the arsons, which created a diversion while they loaded stolen items into an SUV, police said. They were spotted in surveillance video at both stores, police said.
Weeden "was ultimately identified as the primary suspect in both incidents," Bailey said.
Weeden also had an arrest warrant for failure to register as a violent offender in Madison County, Illinois, Bailey said.
She was taken to the Cook County Courthouse and given an $850,000 bond.
She has not yet been charged in Lake County for the Highland Meijer arson and theft.