Arson suspect's son says mom needs mental help

Published: Sep. 20, 2011 at 3:08 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2011 at 9:36 PM CDT
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Tommie Ragsdale mug shot courtesy of Trinity County Constable Pct. 1.
Tommie Ragsdale mug shot courtesy of Trinity County Constable Pct. 1.

TRINITY COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A San Angelo man who says he is the son of a Trinity woman accused of intentionally setting five fires, tell us his mother is mentally ill and needs professional help.

Eric Ragsdale, 30, believes that his mother, Tommie Ragsdale, 46, suffers from depression and that she set the fires as a subconscious cry for help.

"She's been in and out of mental institutions," her son said. "Anyone who looks at her can see the cuts and burns she has done to herself."

Trinity County Constable Woody Wallace arrested Tommie Ragsdale Monday morning in connection to five fires in the FM 355 area on Sunday. She is charged with five counts of arson and is being held in the Houston County Jail on a $450,000 bail bond.

Eric Ragsdale said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning that his mother had been living in an apartment in Trinity, but his father moved her out to the house in the FM 355 area within the last two weeks.

"She was fine in that apartment," Eric Ragsdale said.

Eric Ragsdale said his mother began suffering from mental problems in 2005. He also said he believes his mother was on medication when she set the fires. Medication is not a good enough treatment, Eric Ragsdale said, and she needs professional counseling.

"She did it for the attention and help she so desperately needs," he said.

The son said he is thankful to the fire department for their efforts.

"I just want to say to the general public, please don't judge a person by their actions," he said. "There's a lot more going on than what you see. I'm not condoning her actions. I'm not saying what she did was OK. But just have some sort of compassion."

Eric Ragsdale said he has not spoken with his mother in the past two weeks, but wants to now.

"I'd tell her I love her and she has the full support of her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren," he said.

The son said he does not think his mother can afford to bail out of jail.

"Right now she is on disability and going through MHMR to get the help she needs," he said. "She can't have a job and if one thing goes wrong, she becomes a different person."

Wallace believes wanting to be a part of this scene again may have driven her to set fire in her own neighborhood.

"A lot of these people that are arsonists, they like the excitement and they like all the drama that comes with a fire and all the firefighters being there and we kind of suspect that's what's going on," Wallace said.

Wallace said Ragsdale admitted to starting five fires, some off French Road near FM 355.

"It is extremely tough to catch someone that's starting fires, but in this case we lucked out because there were several people that called in suspicious activity in the vehicle she was driving," Wallace said.

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