Woman who claimed girlfirend set her on fire is arrested for lighting it herself

Posted on 06 Nov 2012 at 3:44pm

Ronna Faris

Olufunke Whitehead, who was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of dousing another women with gasoline and setting her on fire, has been cleared of all charges by Bedford police.

Whitehead was arrested a week after the fire and posted $25,000 bail, but was never charged with the crime. She said the ordeal has cost her more than $6,000 over the past two years in addition to personal distress.

Now, police have arrested Ronna Faris and charged her with arson and attempted capital murder. Police believe Faris doused herself with gasoline and started the fire. Her parents, who were in the house, escaped using walkers.

Faris was burned over 63 percent of her body.

According to a report in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Faris was taken into custody Monday on $500,000 bail. She is charged with arson and attempted murder.

Whitehead met Faris online in April 2010. Faris told police that Whitehead was her girlfriend and broke into her house, doused her with gasoline and set her on fire. Using information from Bedford police, Dallas Voice incorrectly identified Whitehead at the time as an “estranged girlfriend.”

Police at the time said, “I don’t know the extent of their relationship, but I do believe they have referred to each other as girlfriends, but I don’t think they ever lived together.”

Whitehead told Instant Tea on Tuesday that she never called Faris her girlfriend.

“I knew her three weeks at the time,” Whitehead said. “For two of those three weeks, she was stalking me, stalking my kids.”

Whitehead got a restraining order against Faris.

“She kept texting me that she was going to kill herself and it will be my fault,” she said.

So Whitehead called the police, who took Faris to a local hospital for a mental evaluation but released her within a few hours.

Whitehead’s arrest at the time was partially based on failing a lie detector test. She said she wasn’t surprised she failed it because even any talk of fire scares her.

“I’m severely freaked out by fires,” she said. “My nightgown caught on fire about 13 years ago and I have scars. I don’t even cook. Ask my kids.”

Whitehead has four children — the oldest is 26 and just out of the Navy. She also has a 20-year-old who’s still in the Navy, an 18-year-old in college and a 16-year-old in high school. She has been a widow for 15 years.

She is a manager for an accounting company and said the only reason she didn’t immediately lose her job was the Bedford detective investigating the case called her employer to say there was really no evidence against her.

After the first few months, Whitehead had little contact with the police and said she was living in limbo.

“I’m still in therapy,” she said. “It’s incredibly embarrassing for someone like me who is such a private person. The fear I lived under until yesterday.”

The day before the fire, Faris tried to extort money from Whitehead. She said she would stop stalking Whitehead if she gave Faris $5,000.

Over the past two years, Whitehead said they found several other women Faris tried to extort also. Whitehead said she believes finding these other women corroborated her story and built the case against Faris.

Faris has a long criminal history.

In 1986, she began serving 10 years probation for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon in Euless.

In 2003, she was indicted with her parents and six others for receiving about $1.5 million from proceeds of the sale of counterfeit Microsoft software. She was sentenced to 33 months in prison. Her father received three years probation and charges against her mother were dropped.

Whitehead said there’s no way to reclaim the money she spent defending herself but for the first time in more than two years she has a great sense of relief.

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