Austin woman charged with arson in South Austin fourplex fire

An Austin woman has been charged with arson after Austin fire officials say she intentionally set a fire that engulfed the front of an apartment building early Friday morning because her girlfriend's ex was back in her life.

Richelle Williams, 26, was charged with arson, a first-degree felony, in connection with a fire that happened in the 9900 block of Roxanna Drive in the early morning hours of Friday, June 21.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, the Austin Fire Department responded to a structure fire at around 3:28 a.m. on Roxanna Drive, finding the front of a fourplex apartment building engulfed in flames. The stairs to the second floor were on fire, so tenants, including three children, had to be rescued via a second-floor balcony.

The Austin Police Department had responded to several calls from that building earlier in the evening, and APD said the complainant, later identified as Williams, had "acted strangely" and "possibly given APD false information," says the affidavit. Due to this, Williams' apartment being on fire and the fact she was there, AFD investigators were called to the scene.

While conducting interviews with officers, occupants and Williams at the scene, investigators discovered that Williams had called 911 several times prior to the fire saying that a man had been dealing drugs from a vehicle in the parking lot, says the affidavit. Officers found out that the vehicle was registered to Williams' girlfriend who lived in the apartment with her.

Initially Williams denied any connection to the owner of the vehicle or the person dealing from it, but later when officers arrived for the fire, she was seen in the open door of the same vehicle, according to the affidavit.

Williams initially reported to investigators that she had discovered the fire in an outdoor storage closet and attempted to extinguish it herself. She reiterated that she did not know the man she said she saw dealing drugs and said he left when APD arrived, and then confirmed she was in a romantic relationship with the owner of the car, says the affidavit.

Investigators say the man she accused of dealing drugs was still on scene, and he said that he had been romantically involved with Williams' girlfriend and was attempting to be so again. He told investigators that when he had arrived at the apartment earlier in the evening, Williams had gotten angry and the two had an argument, according to the affidavit.

When told Williams had called the police to have him arrested for dealing drugs, he said he was not dealing and that Williams was trying to remove him, then showed investigators texts from Williams' girlfriend confirming Williams' anger about him being back in her life.

The girlfriend confirmed to investigators she had been out with her ex at the store the previous evening. She told investigators she returned, parked her vehicle in the parking lot and performed a sex act on him. According to the affidavit, the car was parked within clear view of the apartment. She said a short time later, smoke was coming from the front of the building. According to the girlfriend, Williams and other occupants opened a closet door and the fire grew until it engulfed the front of the building.

When investigators re-interviewed Williams, she admitted to calling 911 multiple times in an attempt to have her girlfriend's ex arrested because of his interference in her relationship, says the affidavit. 

Investigators found the fire to be arson, and also discovered a second fire that had been set to a book in another closet near to the one where the first fire originated.