A woman who resided in the Edgewood apartment that was the scene of a deadly fire on May 9 has been arrested and charged with the three deaths caused by that blaze.
Bobbie Sue Hodge, 60, has been charged by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office with three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of attempted second-degree murder, and first-degree arson. She is being held at the Harford County Detention Center on no bail status.
The fire at the Simmons Court townhouse broke out at about 2:30 a.m. The building quickly filled with smoke and flames. Many of the residents dealt with disabilities and struggled to escape, while others lingered to rescue pets. The Office of the State Fire Marshall was able to locate three residents who perished in the fire. The victims were later identified as 32-year-old Dionne Dominique Hill, 47-year-old Kimberly Ann Shupe, and 57-year-old Ernest Milton Lee. A fourth-floor resident was injured jumping from a third-floor window. A second-floor resident sustained severe burns and had to be rescued by fire fighters.
Through 100 of hours of interviews, investigators eventually determined the fire originated from an interior second-floor living room of the building. When investigators talked to witnesses and residents, they learned Hodge made multiple threats to burn down the townhouse in the days before the blaze, and on the day of the fire, Hodge was seen leaving the second-floor room where flames originated. They also learned one of the residents who died had made a call saying Hodge had just started the fire. When authorities interviewed Hodge, she provided several inconsistent statements about the events leading up to and after the fire.
"Investigators realized early on that this suspect deserved a strong look," Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler said. He said his office had previously received calls to the apartments related to Hodge, though he did not share any specifics of those calls. "I think there were things that were said by the suspect in this case prior to the fire that were cause for concern."
Hodge actually talked to WMAR-2 News reporters the morning of the fire, saying she had escaped from the basement and heard the shouts of distress from her neighbors.
“Disabled, we were all disabled. When I came out, I heard a lot of screaming and crying,” Hodge said at the time. “….. We tried to go back in, me and Justin and his mom, but we couldn’t go up the steps because the fire was already coming down.”
In the weeks after the deadly fire, a memorial for the victims grew in front of the burned out structure. The building was managed by Jeffrey A. Luck, who manages several other properties in the area. Residents complained of building conditions at the Simons Court apartments and other properties. The Office of the State Fire Marshall cited Luck for multiple code violations, including lack of smoke alarms and no working sprinklers, at several of those properties. Those properties have since been brought to code, said Maryland State Fire Marshall Brian Geraci.
The Simons Court property also suffered from similar code issues involving lacking equipment, Geraci said, saying a complete, residential sprinkler system, nor an adequate smoke or fire alarm system.
"if a sprinkler system was in place," Geraci said, "those folks would not have lost their lives."