If revenge is a dish best served cold, perhaps she should have skipped the potato.
A 19-year-old Connecticut woman was arrested Tuesday on charges of second-degree arson, third-degree burglary and first-degree criminal mischief for allegedly setting fire to two businesses in September.
But the events that culminated in the revenge spree — and a spud-induced downfall — began long before Willow Martin of Naugatuck, Conn., allegedly dropped a flaming napkin into gasoline.
Martin worked at Hollywood Connecticut Strip Club, where she was chummy with fellow dancer Breonna Constantino. Constantino and Martin took a summer trip to New Jersey in 2015, according to a police warrant obtained by the Hartford Courant. Their friendship would not last, though, once Constantino asked Martin for a loan to go clothes shopping.
In an interview with police Martin’s boyfriend, 28-year-old Matthew Garguilo, said Martin gave Constantino $1,200, local TV station WTNH reported. Garguilo, who was arrested on July 7 in connection with the fire, told authorities that Martin was angry with Constantino for being slow to repay the loan.
The teenager hatched a plan for revenge, Garguilo said. Martin texted him she wanted to burn down the building that housed Constantino’s stepfather’s business.
On the night of Sept. 15, 2015, a fire damaged two shops: Golden Wok Chinese Restaurant and Masonry Inc. and Chimney, both located in the same building in the town of Prospect, Conn. Police determined it was arson. Masonry Inc. and Chimney is owned by Constantino’s stepfather.
Garguilo said he drove Martin to the Prospect building reluctantly, though he lent her a hammer and gas can, which they filled en route. He told police he hid in a bush as Martin set fire to the building. She allegedly smashed her way in, taking Garguilo’s hammer to a window. He said she doused the place in gasoline, set a napkin on fire and then touched flame to fuel. The blaze caused an estimated $450,000 in damage, and the building was later razed.
The resulting blast was so powerful it knocked Martin through the door, prompting Garguilo to describe it “just like in the movies,” the Courant reported. They fled, only to circle back and watch the fire.
When Constantino’s stepfather arrived at the scene, according to WTNH, he discovered the spud stuffed in the tailpipe of a Masonry Inc. and Chimney van. In Hollywood logic, a potato lodged in a tailpipe will cause cars to explode. In reality, according to people who know cars, the engine will stall when a vegetable or anything else blocks the exhaust. Anecdotally, if the tuber is not sufficiently mashed, it can be expelled with great force.
In the September arson case, the police say the potato led them to Martin. First, the stepfather handed the potato over to the police. It turned out to be a tainted spud — forensic examination revealed Garguilo’s DNA. He, in turn, confessed to touching the tuber, but said he gave it to Martin. He blamed her for stuffing it into the van’s pipe. At the time of the fire and potato sabotage, Garguilo added, Constantino had paid back all but a third of the loan.
Garguilo is being held on a $35,000 bond. Martin, who was already incarcerated for possessing heroin and allegedly trying to pay a toll with counterfeit bills, had her bond set at $110,000 pending a Wednesday arraignment.