Teresa Parisi Bennett of Coral Springs, Florida was arrested Friday after she was accused of setting the pediatric clinic where she worked on fire, news sources reports. She also allegedly lied to police when she was asked how the fire started. Bennett, 40, was booked into the Broward County Main Jail on charges of arson and possession of a controlled substance. Her bail was set at $10,000. It is not yet known whether Bennett has hired a hired a lawyer.
According to reports, Bennett works at the Holistic Pediatrics Office on Medical Plaza in Coral Springs. Co-workers say Bennett had been experiencing work-related strife prior to the fire. “She was having some issues and problems at work,” one co-worker said, though that person did not give further details. Bennett was reportedly having trouble getting along with her co-workers recently and had even mentioned suicide before the event.
The alleged incident began around 5:30 Friday evening, reports say. Bennett dialed 911 within the office building at 5:38 p.m. to report a fire. Fire rescue teams rushed to the scene and found that the building was indeed on fire. They removed Bennett from the building and took her to the Broward Health Center, where she was treated for smoke inhalation injuries. Detectives launched an investigation to determine the cause of the fire; they have so far been unable to find a cause, reports say. It is not clear how much damage was done to the building, nor is it known whether the business will be forced to close while repairs are made.
Once Bennett was well enough to speak, detectives questioned her about the fire and she gave them three conflicting stories, reports say. Bennett purportedly told detectives that she was in the office when an unidentified man broke in and chased her through the halls. According to Bennett, the suspect wanted prescription pills. She says the suspect subjected her to torture, sexually assaulted her, and attacked her. Bennett reportedly said she lost consciousness after the attack and could not recall what happened afterwards. Detectives say Bennett’s story changed several times and that she admitted that she was “holding things back.”
“There was no evidence of anything in the sexual assault,” a police spokesperson said. “We even brought in an FBI analyst to analyze her statements and found them to be false.” Detectives inspected Bennett’s cellphone records and found she called her boyfriend at 5:25 p.m. and spoke with him for 30 seconds. Thirteen minutes later, she called 911 to report the fire. Detectives conclude that the alleged assault would have had to occur within that 13-minute time frame for it to be plausible.
Detectives searched Bennett’s clothing and found Vicodin and Ambien pills with no prescription bottles, sources say. The detectives also learned that Bennett had filed eight prescriptions recently; however, the doctors whose signatures were on the bottles say they did not authorize the prescriptions. Detectives are continuing to investigate the cause of the fire and may possibly identify the purported suspect that allegedly assaulted Bennett. No one else appears to have been injured in the fire.
Sources: 2.16.13 Bennett Arson.pdf