Nurse Accused Of Setting Fire That Closed Local Elementary School

Mary Lucille Gutierrez (Jail photo)

WACO (August 11, 2011)—Mary Lucille Gutierrez, 55, who works as a nurse at Speegleville Elementary School, was arrested Thursday in connection with a fire earlier this week that so heavily damaged the school that students will start the new year in temporary quarters.

McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch said Gutierrez was arrested at around noon at her home in Waco on a warrant charging arson.

Lynch would not disclose what led to her arrest, but said Gutierrez did make a statement to investigators.

According to the affidavit submitted for the arrest warrant, sheriff’s investigators interviewed Gutierrez Wednesday after the school district identified her on Tuesday as a suspect in the fire.

The affidavit says Gutierrez admitted to investigators that she set the fire.

The Midway Independent School District declined to comment directly on the arrest, saying that its “concentration will remain on the priority of educating our students while law enforcement experts pursue resolution of the situation.”

“The sheriff's office has our full cooperation, and we will continue to work closely with law enforcement officials,” the district said.

The fire started inside the building in the kindergarten wing sometime around 2:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Traci Marlin, public information coordinator for Midway ISD said damage to that portion of the building was significant.

The kindergarten wing suffered fire, smoke, heat, and water damage and there was smoke and water damage throughout the building.

Students and staff from the fire-damaged school will start the new school year at River Valley Intermediate School, district officials said earlier Thursday.

Midway ISD Superintendent Dr. Brad Lancaster announced the decision to relocate the students on Wednesday, saying that River Valley has the most available space and is attended by the older siblings of some of the Speegleville students.

"This was a carefully considered decision," Lancaster said.

"We evaluated all campus options, and chose the best option available. We will continue to examine the ramifications of adding 250 students and staff to this building, such as lack of age appropriate playground equipment, bathroom needs of younger students, and daily schedules. In the meantime, Principals Christopher Eberlein and Sarah Holland met to review the facilities, floor plans and class schedules, and they believe they have most of the hurdles addressed,” he said.

The Midway ISD Board met Thursday to approve a restoration company to begin repairs on the damaged building.

Plans for the move to River View will be reviewed on Friday.

Speegleville Elementary School Website