(Hidden Valley, Ind.) – A mother allegedly tried to kill herself and her son because she feared the child would be taken away from her.
That was Vanessa Dean’s reasoning for pouring gasoline around her Alpine Drive home and setting it ablaze the afternoon of October 13.
Dean’s mother-in-law, Sherry Couch, came to the home after several phone calls in recent days went unanswered. She told investigators with the Greendale Police Department that the doors were locked.
Couch then witnessed Dean’s hair had been burned. She ran crying for help stating her grandchild was inside.
The neighbors moving at the home next door, Nicole Downard, her husband Ryan, and friend Chuck Freese, sprang into action. As the two men tried to break in through a window, Nicole found a backdoor to the first floor to be shut but unlocked. She went into the thick, black smoke.
“She yelled inside, and (the child) called back, ‘Mom?’” according to an affidavit filed in Dearborn Circuit Court. “She walked in about ten feet. The smoke was so thick that she could only see Christopher when she was about two feet from him.”
She grabbed the boy and exited the burning home.
“Without that I believe the boy would have died,” Greendale Police Sgt. Kevin Turner said during a Friday press conference.
Dean, however, tried to get back into the home after seeing her son rescued. The witnesses were able to restrain her.
Soon after the brave rescue, Greendale firefighters were the first department on the scene to find the single story home with flames shooting from the garage and roof.
Greendale Fire Chief Shannon Craig entered the burning home to battle the fire. He observed a red plastic gas can in the home’s basement hallway leading to garage. Craig also smelled burning gasoline.
Turner began to investigate the fire and quickly determined it had been intentionally set. Turner, who is a member of the Dearborn County Fire Investigation Team, also found the doors had been locked and the keys thrown in a bush outside the home.
Dean was taken to the hospital after suffering burns to her arms, ears, and hair. A detective interviewed her there and she admitted to setting the fire after pouring gasoline in the basement.
“She stated she thought the police were there to take her away, and she really did not think about what she did, but just did it,” according to the affidavit.
Dean had earlier told an EMT at the scene that she believed police were going to take her son away and give her lethal injections.
The child was released to relatives the day of the fire, Turner said at the press conference. Child Protective Services have been involved with the boy’s well-being since.
Turner would not speculate whether Dean suffered from mental illness or say whether she had a criminal history.
Charges of Attempted Murder, Arson Under Circumstances that Endanger Human Life, and Neglect of a Dependant were filed against Dean on Thursday.
Turner said charges were not filed immediately following the fire because of the time it took to fully investigate the incident.
A warrant for Dean’s arrest was also issued Thursday. Turner said she had not been arrested, but was not believed to be on the run.
Dean’s lawyer had been notified of the charges and she is expected to turn herself in, Turner said.