"Big Bag of Crazy" Arson Trial is Underway
SAN ANGELO, TX — Chelsea Strube, dressed in business attire and a red sport coat, appeared studious and ready to mount her defense with defense attorney Gonzalo Rios Monday morning in the largest courtroom in the Tom Green County Courthouse.
Nearly 70 potential jurors were culled to 50 who will be further whittled down to 12 plus two alternates to set the panel Monday afternoon. The trial will be heard in Judge Brock Jones’ court.
Strube is accused of setting fire the car driven by her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend that was parked in the parking lot on the south side of the Deadhorse bar at 210 S. Chadbourne St. in downtown San Angelo.
Strube is adamant that she was not involved in the attempt to set fire to the gas tank of the VW Jetta that night. She told us previously she intends to win.
According to the indictment, Strube is accused of “intentionaly and knowingly start[ing] a fire by placing a white fabric into the gas tank along with a green plastic bottle containing a flammable liquid at a motor vehicle and igniting the flammable liquid, with intent to damage and destroy a vehicle.”
The incident happened on Sept. 8, 2015.
At about the same time the fire at the Deadhorse parking lot happened, a call to 9-1-1 came in describing a suspicious person seen on the roof of the Texas Theater downtown. As police and firefighters were attempting to find the person reported, a silver car with a man and woman pulled up and the female driver told the official, “There’s a car on fire! It’s going to explode, so you better get going!” The car was the VW Jetta in the Deadhorse parking lot.
Strube met with police at the Texas Theater when authorities were searching for the supposed man atop the abandoned building. They observed that Strube was driving a red Ford Mustang.
That same Mustang was recorded on video pulling out of the alleyway from near the Deadhouse close to the time of the report of the car on fire. According to the arrest affidavit, fire investigators went to Strube’s house and found a late model Mustang similar to the one on video. Inside the car, the arson investigator found a white canvas bag in the back passenger seat with the words ‘big bag of crazy’ screen-printed on it, and the bag contained miscellaneous items, including:
- two large bags of Duraflame kitchen matches;
- one small matchbook of matches;
- one plastic white and purple glove;
- one kitchen knife with a serrated blade;
- one kitchen paring knife;
- one pair of Kobalt wire cutters;
- one garden tool with a stainless steel blade and a blue and white handle;
- and one flat screwdriver with a black and red handle.
The complaint noted that “the items located in the red Ford Mustang would be items consistent with the damages observed on the victim’s vehicle.”
The date of the trial has been delayed because of legal wrangling between the defense and prosecution. The 51st District Attorney Allison Palmer is prosecuting the case.
Strube works as a clerk for defense attorney Stephanie Goodman. When Strube’s laptop and other electronic devices were seized in connection with this case, Strube’s attorney complained that the contents of Strube’s devices contained sensitive client-attorney communications and documents pertaining to other defense cases Goodman’s law firm was hired to defend against prosecutor Palmer’s office.
Palmer solved the issue by announcing to the court that she didn’t need to use any evidence from the confiscated electronic devices.
Instead, Palmer said she could call the victims, the girlfriend whose car Strube is accused of attempting to blow up, and Strube’s ex-boyfriend, to the stand to testify about 8 other incidents where Strube is accused of harassing them. Other victims of Strube’s harassment may be called as well. In all , Palmer listed 11 incidents that include slashing the victims’ tires and other attempts at arson on their vehicles, and stalking, according to a court filing by Palmer.
As the cuts made to the pool of potential jurors approached the size of a sitting jury, Palmer asked each potential juror if they had heard or read about this case prior to their jury summons. Each one of them said they had read about the case on San Angelo LIVE!
Jury selection should conclude this afternoon and the trial is expected to last five days.
For more on the "Big Bag of Crazy" arson case, see:
- Will Chelsea Jo Strube Walk in 'Big Bag of Crazy' Arson Case? (6/17/2019)
- A “Big Bag of Crazy” Found in Suspected Arson Case (11/10/2015)
- Big Bag of Crazy: D.A. Agrees Not to Use Seized Electronic Communications in Arson Trial (12/18/2018)
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