ENGLEWOOD, N.J. -- An Englewood woman paid her cousin and his girlfriend to torch the car of a local teen her son was having trouble with, authorities charged.
City detectives worked with their colleagues from Dumont to eventually take four people into custody following an overnight Dec. 23 fire that destroyed a 2003 Mitsubishi Gallant behind a Mattlage Place house just of West Palisade Avenue, Detective Capt. Timothy Torell said Sunday night.
"Had a firefighter been injured dousing the fire, or if the fire had spread from the vehicle to a home in that densely populated area, we could have had a real tragedy here," Torell told Daily Voice.
Detectives discovered from the registered owner that her 18-year-old son was having problems with another Englewood teen, he said.
The Bergen County Sheriff’s Bureau of Identification collected evidence that indicated arson, Torell said.
Within days, city detectives identified 26-year-old Ryan Miller of Dumont -- the accused getaway driver -- as a suspect, the captain said.
Detectives arrested Miller this past Thursday on arson-for-pay charges, and a judge ordered him held on $200,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail.
Next they went after 37-year-old Michael Ellis DeFreese of Englewood.
On Friday, Detective Sgts. Chris Kedersha and Lester Martin, along with Detectives Ana Bedoya and Barry Miller, staked out DeFreese’s Englewood residence, Torell said. They spotted DeFreese and took him into custody after a brief struggle around 2:45 p.m., he said.
DeFreese remained held on $250,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail on charges of arson-for-pay and drug possession -- for marijuana that Torell said he was carrying.
Detectives obtained two more arson arrest warrants -- one for DeFreese's girlfriend, Heather Ives, 25, who already was in the county jail on another matter, and the other for 40-year-old Charlene Scott, who was arrested at her home late Friday.
Scott was ordered held on $200,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail.
Scott's son was the one having the problem with the teen driver, Torell explained.
She paid her cousin, DeFrees, along with his girlfriend, Ives, to torch the car, he said.
The couple then enlisted Miller to drive the getaway car, Torell said.
"Evidence of the crime was later destroyed by the trio in a nearby Englewood location," he said.
Besides help from Dumont detectives, Torell touted the role Crimes Stoppers of Bergenfield, Englewood, Hackensack & Teaneck played in the case. Crime Stoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests and/or convictions: (844) 466-6789.
Additional charges were possible as the investigation continues.
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