Gresham arson suspect arrested

Woman, angry about losing parental rights, allegedly tried to firebomb Gresham DHS building
by: Marlene Yvonne Chenette,

A woman suspected in the 2005 arson of the Gresham Department of Human Services office is being held in the Clark County, Wash., jail after being arrested Monday night, April 7, near Vancouver.

Marlene Yvonne Chenette, 27, was arrested on unspecified charges one day after Gresham police named her as a suspect in the attempted firebombing of the DHS office in November 2005, said Sgt. Claudio Grandjean. At the time, she was reportedly angry at the DHS about losing her parental rights.

'It is a chance encounter type thing,' Grandjean said of the Clark County arrest.

Chenette, 27, has outstanding warrants in Multnomah, Clackamas and Hood River counties on charges related to the Gresham incident as well as those involving drugs and probation violations.

Between 7 p.m. Nov. 23, and 8 a.m. Nov. 24, 2005, officers were dispatched to the 300 block of Northwest Division Street to what appeared to be a broken window at the DHS building. No one apparently made entry, so police just boarded up the window.

The morning of Nov. 25, DHS workers discovered two Molotov cocktails - flammable liquid in bottles - had been thrown in with the rock. The incendiary devices had not ignited. At the time employees identified a woman who was angry with DHS about losing her parental rights, and as a result, threatened agency employees, according to Gresham Police. The agency office is responsible for child-protective services.

After a lengthy investigation, analysis of physical evidence and interviews with DHS employees, Gresham Police identified Chenette, along with Christopher Coopersmith, 32, of Portland, as suspects in the crime and indicted them on first-degree attempted arson charges. Coopersmith was arrested Wednesday, March 26, for his alleged role in the incident.

Chenette's whereabouts were unknown until her Monday arrest, said Grandjean, who had issued a call for information on Chenette the same day.

'It was unexpected in terms of how it happened,' he said of her arrest. 'The timing was kind of funny. If I had waited a day, I wouldn't have put (the bulletin) out. So we put out some information, and lo and behold, she got picked up.'

Gresham Police were unable to confirm the circumstances of Chenette's arrest, and Clark County sheriff's officials were unavailable at press time.