(LINTON) – A Linton couple was arrested on Tuesday in connection to an August 4th fire that destroyed their log home.
According to police, 42-year-old Jeremy Ferree and his wife 40-year-old Crystal Ferree are facing multiple counts of arson after an investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Linton Police Department.
The arrest was made by personnel from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and was assisted by officers from the Linton Police Department.
Jeremy Ferree, the owner of Ferree Log Homes, is charged with four felony counts of arson and two counts of conspiracy to commit arson with the intent to defraud. His wife Crystal is facing two felony counts of conspiracy to commit arson and a count of conspiracy to commit arson with the intent to defraud.
According to a Greene Circuit Court probable cause affidavit, the couple lived at 10829 West County Road 185 North, in Linton.
The fire was reported at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 4. The fire burned hot and fast and consumed the home.
Firefighters from the Linton Fire Department, Wright Township, and Switz City VFDs responded along with a Greene County Ambulance Service.
The couple and their two children were not home when the fire was reported.
After firefighters had extinguished the blaze, Linton Fire Chief Brad Sparks requested an arson investigator to determine the cause of the blaze.
Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the State Fire Marshal’s Office Investigator Jeffrey Ramey II were on the scene early Monday morning.
During his investigation, Ramey was assisted by officers with the Linton and Jasonville Police Departments, Greene County Sheriff’s Department and Indiana State Police.
Ramey noted that he found family photos and collectibles inside a room in the garage. The garage sustained minimal exterior damage from the heat of the fire.
The couple did have insurance on the home, but they did not have insurance long. It was purchased just weeks earlier at Farm Bureau on July 15.
Crystal Ferree told Ramey that her husband had built the home and they didn’t owe any money on it. She says they did have insurance on the home but had let the policy lapse for financial reasons and she had recently renewed the policy.
When asked where she was the night of the fire, Crystal Ferree allegedly said she left home around 11 a.m. that day and went to Bloomington with her son. She said the two went shopping then went to McCormick’s Creek State Park to go hiking and then spent the night at the park. They returned home early Monday morning after learning their house was on fire.
Crystal told investigators that her daughter was the last person to be in the house. The daughter had then left to go to a party in Linton.
Crystal said her husband was out riding on his new Harley Davidson motorcycle with friends and family in Bloomington or Ellettsville the night of the fire.
Jeremy Ferree told investigators he rode his Harley to Ellettsville to meet a family member. Then went to Brothers Bar in Bloomington.
He said he was returning home when his phone rang but he didn’t answer it right away. When he finally did, he was told his house was on fire.
Ramey also interviewed the couple’s daughter and her female friend who had been hanging out at the house before the fire.
She told investigators they had left the house to go to a friend’s house when her mother called asking her to make sure her prescription medication was secure. She turned around, went back home and did what her mother told her and then left again around 10 p.m.
Ramey also talked to Richard Howard, a private fire investigator hired by Farm Bureau Insurance. According to Howard, the house was insured for approximately $600,000 and the couple had filed a claim shortly after the fire and were paid an initial amount of $10,000.
Investigators had learned the couple had twice filed for divorce. The most recent filing was in June.
According to court records, the business and their personal finances were suffering, their marriage was not good, their utilities had been recently disconnected numerous times, the daughter had returned home to make sure the dog was outside, Jeremy had substantial bills and payroll coming due without sufficient funds to cover everything.
An anonymous tip to CrimeStoppers led Linton Chief Paul Clark to look into the surveillance cameras that were present at the Ferree Mill. Chief Clark determined the cameras had been turned off the afternoon before the fire and had been turned back on the day after the fire.
On August 8, a search warrant was granted for the Ferree Log Home business property to look for evidence including the surveillance system with storage device and all electronic media stored on the system as well as jewelry, photographs, cash, important documents, medication, guns, electronics and pets.
The warrant was executed by Linton Police officers and deputies from the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. They found a surveillance camera, totes containing clothes, shoes, a purse, and family memorabilia, as well as white trash bags filled with clothes and other items.
After reviewing the information, items, and evidence, on August 8, the investigator changed the classification of the fire from “undetermined” to “incendiary.”
The investigator also obtained the couple’s cell phones and they were examined by the Indiana State Police Lab. Investigators also seized the surveillance camera and associated data which was examined by the ISP Cyber Crimes Unit.
Investigators determined the surveillance system was shut off on August 4 at 2:23 p.m. and turned back on at 3:29 p.m. on August 5. Investigators found text messages including arguments between the couple over money and bills and over being unfaithful to each other. They also found a message that mentioned Crystal was “prepping.” The surveillance system allegedly recorded some of that “prepping.”
Ramey reported the system was recording on August 3, the day before the fire, around 2 p.m. when Crystal Ferree backed her SUV up to the office building and unloaded three plastic totes and a white trash bag out of her vehicle into the office building where they were found during the search.
Ramey said, “This officer believes that the clothes, shoes, purse and coffee cup located inside the totes and plastic bags were items removed out of Crystal and Jeremy’s house so they would not burn up in the fire.”
Ramey continued, “I observed that Jeremy arrived and left the mill multiple times on August 3, 2019. At 2:17:08 p.m., Jeremy arrives at the mill again. Jeremy walks to the office a few minutes later, walks inside the office, walks over to the DVR for the cameras and then at 2:23 p.m., the cameras go black and are not recording.” Ramey added that when the cameras started recording again, they showed Jeremy Ferree walking around the office with another man.
Ramey states, “This officer believes that Jeremy shut the surveillance cameras off to avoid video evidence of the crime of arson being collected….”
GPS data from the couple’s cell phones was analyzed by Deputy Indiana State Fire Marshal Joe Tanasovich who is tasked with reviewing and analyzing cell phone data and provided more information on their whereabouts the night of the fire.
According to Tanasovich, Jeremy Ferree’s cell phone was in the Ellettsville and Bloomington area that night but left that area at 1:14 a.m. traveling to Spencer, then Worthington then Switz City, arriving in the Linton area around 2:20 a.m., approximately one hour and ten minutes prior to the fire being reported. Ramey said this information contradicts Jeremy Ferree’s statements.
According to Tanasovich, Crystal Ferree’s cell phone arrived at McCormick’s Creek State Park at 7 p.m. and stayed there until 4:10 a.m. when it traveled to Linton.
Ramey concluded that he believed Jeremy and Crystal Ferree conspired to commit the crime of arson.
Ramey alleges that Jeremy Ferree set his house on fire at approximately 3:20 a.m. and that Crystal Ferree conspired with Jeremy Ferree to set the house on fire.
Jeremy and Crystal Ferree were both booked into the Greene County Jail where their bonds were set at $30,000 surety with ten percent cash allowed. At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jeremy Ferree posted bond and was released. Crystal Ferree remains in jail.