Provo woman linked to 2 arson cases on Christmas morning, potentially more

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Provo resident Calliope Jacox Mlynar was arrested in connection to two arson cases reported on Christmas morning at Centennial Apartments and a nearby duplex.

The 19-year-old was booked at the Utah County Jail on Tuesday, Dec. 27, facing two first-degree felony charges of aggravated arson.

At 4:54 a.m. Christmas morning, a fire was reported at Centennial Apartments in Provo, Utah, located at 320 North and 1020 East Street. The fire was set in the complex’s recreation and laundry room, causing minimal damage. Arson investigator Zac Miguel, who arrived at the scene, determined the fire was started using a handheld lighter and paper.

At 4:11 a.m., the complex reported Mlynar, a Centennial resident, used her radio-frequency identification tag to enter the recreation room. According to a police booking affidavit, known burn rates of drywall and the damage seen match the 20-30 minute timeframe when Provo Fire and Rescue arrived.

At 6:15 a.m. that same morning, another fire was reported at a Centennial-owned duplex, located at 345 North and 1080 East Street, just 100 meters away from Centennial Apartments. The second fire burned through the building’s exterior, spreading inward and upward and reaching the second level. It melted a waterline, ultimately slowing the fire’s spread, according to the affidavit.

Because of the holidays, the duplex was empty at the time of the fire.

A press release from Provo Fire and Rescue noted similar fires by Mlynar that occurred almost an exact month prior, on Nov. 24.

The investigation remains active, as police are looking into whether she is linked to 10 additional recent arson-started fires nearby. According to the affidavit, these 10 open arson investigations all occurred within a five-block radius of Centennial Apartments.

The press release noted, “the arrest was made in connection with a number of fires that have occurred in Provo over the past several months.” There are commonalities and trends with these fires, resulting in an ongoing investigation where more charges are possible.

Provo Fire and Rescue also responded to a structure fire at Centennial Apartments on Dec. 5. The fire burned through apartment 113’s door, doormat and doorknob. The four residents inside this apartment were able to escape, with one suffering burns on her hand from the doorknob. The source of the fire has not been confirmed, but investigators are leaning toward Mlynar, according to the affidavit.

Laura Sanabria, whose hand was burned, recalled being filled with shock and adrenaline.

“I acted without thinking,” Sanabria said. She continued, “It was hard to believe what was going on after opening the door. I jumped over the fire and my other friends began to leave. We were all scared.”

Since the incident Sanabria continues to feel unsafe, saying the Centennial Apartments management “only fixed part of the door and didn’t do more.” Sanabria said she has not been able to sleep for weeks, having continual panic attacks.

Mlynar’s apartment is located on the opposite side of apartment 113, and on the second floor. In the days following this reported fire, Centennial management reported Mlynar leaving her windows open. When asked to close her windows Mlynar complained, because it “smelled like fire and chemicals.” The affidavit reported the fire did not cause enough smoke for these issues to be persisting in the days following and where Mlynar’s apartment was in comparison, and noted her behaviors as “abnormal.”

Prospective BYU student Sierra Ford lives at the apartment directly above the one set ablaze. She and her roommate woke up when they heard the commotion outside. Ford said she thought she heard someone yell “fire,” and ran out into her smoke-filled living room, gathered her other roommates and ran out of the building.

“I didn’t have shoes on and another roommate didn’t have her insulin … Our fire alarms didn’t go off but the apartment right below us had their fire alarms go off, which was a miracle because that’s what woke them up,” Ford said

Ford and her roommates were evacuated for three to four hours before they were allowed back in, but said at that time there was so much smoke they had to find somewhere else to sleep.

“The worst part was seeing the girl in pain from the burn and the fear that came from it. We all had crazy anxiety for the next week and difficulty sleeping because we knew someone had purposefully set it and that made it terrifying,” Ford said.

Ford’s apartment was not the only one with failed fire alarms.

BYU student Taegan Keep, located next door to the apartment on fire, was woken up at about 3:30 a.m. when she heard banging on her door. She quickly realized her living room was filled with smoke, gathered her roommates and joined neighbors and firefighters outside.

After an hour of waiting she went to check on her apartment, where a firefighter asked which one was hers and if she had seen anything suspicious.

She had not, and they were let back in at about 5:30 a.m. later that morning, which, Keep noted, should not have happened as it was still filled with smoke.

“I was also mad because our fire alarms did not go off,” Keep said.

Firefighters respond to a fire at Centennial Apartments. This fire was one of several arson cases potentially linked to Provo resident Calliope Jacox Mlynar. (Photo courtesy of Taegan Keep)

A search warrant was obtained for Mlynar’s apartment on Dec. 27, where a lighter and burned shirt were found. She was brought to the Provo Police Department but invoked her Miranda right to an attorney. She was not questioned further.

Mlynar remains the only known person who could have started the fires.

According to the affidavit, with one person injured and several others displaced, investigators expect to find more evidence. Investigators from the Provo Police Department, Provo Fire Department, FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are working to collect and analyze evidence.

Additionally, no bail is requested while further investigation into the other fires is completed.

“We have a dedicated and professional team of investigators who have been working hard to identify suspects and gather evidence,” Provo Fire Chief James Miguel said in the press release. Fire Marshal Lynn Schofield added to that, stating, “we are going to follow the evidence and go where the evidence takes us.”

“Mlynar represents a threat to the public,” the affidavit concluded.

This is not Mlynar’s first offense.

Mlynar was charged with two counts of sexual battery, a Class A Misdemeanor, and one charge of assault, a Class B Misdemeanor for an incident that occurred on Dec. 28, 2021. She was found guilty.

In this case, according to an affidavit, the victim reported Mlynar threatening her, stating, “what are you going to do about it, I’m bigger than you.” Mlynar was booked in the Utah County Jail on accounts of forcible sexual abuse, unlawful detention and assault. On that same date, she was marked as being at an elevated risk of committing a violent crime and a risk to public safety.

Additionally, Mlynar was charged with the threat and use of dangerous weapons in a fight, a Class A Misdemeanor, for an incident that occurred on June 11, 2022. She was found guilty. Mlynar was at an apartment complex pool in Lehi, Utah with a knife and was, again, marked as being at an elevated risk of committing a violent crime.

On Sept. 23, 2022, Mlynar was arrested for the offense of damaging jail property, when she submerged a wireless phone in water. Mlynar claimed she was frustrated with being in jail and not being able to contact her attorney, which is why she broke the phone. The deputy on this case noted Mlynar had a history of damaging jail property.

The Daily Universe contacted Centennial Apartments to comment, but did not receive a response.

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