Lovingston Woman Charged With Murder After 2009 House Fire

Lovingston, VA - A Lovingston woman is facing a murder charge for a 2009 house fire that seriously injured her husband and killed a family friend.

A special grand jury indicted Linda Blackwell Tuesday on several charges including arson, obtaining money by false pretense, and felony murder.

This isn't the only time Blackwell's house has caught fire. Investigators have responded to at least three fires on her property since 2009.

When Linda Blackwell stopped by the Excel gas station last week, she seemed normal. The cashier says there was no indication she was about to be arrested, no indication she was responsible for her friend's death.

"Early this morning someone told me. It was shocking," said Ruby Wood.

Wood says she's known Blackwell for roughly 40 years. They used to work together at a sewing factory and both attended Ridgecrest Baptist church.

"I don't think she intended to hurt anyone if she did do this. There are people who are arsonists and can't help it. It's like a disease," Wood added.

James Shelton was living with the Blackwells in August 2009 when prosecutors claim Linda Blackwell set the home on fire.

Blackwell told authorities she woke up to flames in the kitchen, ran outside where her husband was already waiting, and instead of calling 9-1-1 -- drove three miles to the sheriff's office to get help.

Blackwell's husband was burned on 60 percent of his body, apparently while trying to rescue his friend.

James Shelton was pronounced dead a few hours later.

Neighbors always had their suspicions. But when the Blackwell's home caught fire again, in February 2012 and a third time in May of this year -- arson investigators began digging deeper.

"I just thought it was bad Karma, bad luck. You know?" Wood said of the multiple fires.

Blackwell's husband did not want to go on camera, but calls his wife's arrest shocking.

As for Shelton's family, it's news they've been waiting four-and-a-half years to hear.

Blackwell is scheduled to appear in Nelson County Circuit Court this Friday for an advisement hearing.