A Cal Fire firefighter, his wife and another family member have been accused of torching their truck to get out of an $830 monthly payment and filing a false insurance claim.
Eric Jabbar Norwood, 47, Linda Lee Norwood, 53, and Keanna Taylor Norwood, 21, of Hemet, have been charged with arson, using an explosive, filing a fraudulent claim for payment and making a false insurance claim, Riverside County Superior Court records show.
Eric and Linda Norwood have pleaded not guilty and have a status conference set for May 22. They have been released on their own recognizance. Keanna Norwood is scheduled to enter a plea on May 14. She posted $40,000 bail.
Eric Norwood remains employed by Cal Fire, said Battalion Chief Lucas Spelman, a spokesman for the agency. Spelman said he did not know whether Norwood was on leave. Norwood worked in the Riverside County Unit for eight years and has worked in the San Diego Unit for two, Spelman said.
The case began about 3 a.m. on May 10, 2015 when a vehicle caught fire in the orange groves at Fairview and Stetson avenues near Hemet. The truck was registered to Eric and Linda Norwood, according to an affidavit written April 16, 2018, by a Cal Fire investigator in order to obtain an arrest warrant.
Linda told deputies that Eric had taken the truck to work, at Station 25 in San Jacinto. There, he told deputies that he had parked his truck and believed that he locked it. An unidentified witness later told the investigator that Linda and Eric had discussed the plausibility that the truck could be stolen “because there have been break-ins at the station before and it wouldn’t be uncommon to have vehicle stolen.”
But the results of the investigation turned the suspicion on the Norwoods.
For one, there was no broken glass or other signs of forced entry where the truck had been parked, the affidavit says. The investigator wrote that he believed the Norwoods staged the truck theft. Keanna admitted driving to the fire station with Linda the night of the fire, the affidavit says.
Then a search of the defendants’ cell phones revealed that Eric had researched the value of the truck, whether insurance covers vandalism and vehicles that he might purchase, the affidavit said. The phone also had a scrubbing program that deleted records of calls, texts and data for a two-month period that included the date of the fire.
The phone search also showed GPS coordinates that placed Linda and Keanna slightly more than a mile away from the site of the fire at 2:30 a.m., a half hour before the truck burned, the affidavit said.
And then the witness told the Cal Fire investigator that about two months after the fire, Linda told her that she was worried that cell phone records might show she and her husband were not home at the time of the fire.
Linda, hoping to establish an alibi, “asked the witness if she would tell investigators that she stayed later than she did and they went to get tacos,” the investigator wrote.
By BRIAN ROKOS | [email protected] | The Press-Enterprise
PUBLISHED: April 26, 2018 at 12:57 pm | UPDATED: April 26, 2018 at 5:04 pm