BALTIMORE COUNTY — When Baltimore County firefighters answered a call for a fire at Medstar Franklin Square Medical Center on Saturday, they discovered someone had set fire to a commercial trash bin in a secured utility room on the third floor.
Four more similar fires followed the next day on multiple floors in a utility room and bathrooms causing chaos in a hospital already taxed by the ongoing pandemic.
“Crews worked to shut off the sprinkler system for water damage, worked with the hospital staff and did an excellent job of sheltering patients in place,” said EMS Capt. Len Stewart of the Baltimore County Fire Department.
Investigators soon learned it took an electronic swipe card to gain access to the utility rooms, and that information pointed to someone in housekeeping, 23-year-old Emani Coclough, who had only worked at the hospital for three months.
“Through a series of investigative techniques, the detectives were able to determine that an employee that was working Saturday and Sunday was responsible for all five of the fires,” said Sgt. Vickie Warehime of the Baltimore County Police Department.
According to charging documents, investigators later learned the suspect worked on the fifth floor, but had been spotted on other floors where the fires were set, and one witness says they entered a utility room and saw Coclough standing over a trash bin emanating flames and she acted as if she’d just found it.
She also told the co-worker an unidentified man had just come out of the room when she entered, but she later recanted that version of events to police and is maintaining her innocence.
“It should be noted that they were very small fires. There was no extensive damage. Nothing was set on fire other than paper products,” said Warehime, “So we know there was some sort of motive behind this, but we just haven’t figured that out yet.”
The suspect faces five counts of Second Degree Malicious Burning, and a judge has denied her bail.