KOKOMO, Ind. — Tips to police led to the arrest of a Kokomo testing lab employee after an arson and burglary at the facility.

Investigators arrested Michelle Ellis on Jan. 19 for her suspected role in an intentionally set fire to the Averhealth facility on N. Main Street on Dec. 28 (2022).

On Jan. 6, Kokomo police released images of a car seen outside of the lab before and after the fire. The driver of a white Toyota Corolla with bumper stickers is seen parking before going into the Averhealth building for a brief period. The driver is then observed parking across the street and watching the building, even getting outside to peek into the windows at one point.

Court documents state police received a tip the next day about Ellis. The tipster told investigators Ellis worked at Averhealth and drove a white Toyota Corolla. After police released info to the public about the suspect’s vehicle, the tipster told investigators Ellis removed bumper stickers from her vehicle.

“The tipster stated they had knowledge of Ms. Ellis telling them that Averhealth had no security system and how easy it would be to break into,” read a probable cause affidavit. According to the tipster, Ellis also knew exactly how much money was stolen even though that information was never released to the public.

A manager at Averhealth confirmed with police that Ellis had a key to the building and drove a white Toyota Corolla with bumper stickers.

Michelle Ellis booking photo

When a detective went to Ellis’ home, he reportedly saw smeared marks on Ellis’ vehicle suggesting that bumper stickers had been removed.

Ellis consented to an interview where court documents indicate she initially denied having anything to do with the arson or burglary.

After about 15 minutes, investigators said Ellis admitted to stealing money from her employer. She told them her “mind wasn’t right” that night after drinking and smoking “quite a bit of weed,” court documents allege.

Ellis then continued to deny setting fire to the business but eventually confessed, telling investigators she started the fire with a Bic lighter and cone-shaped paper cups.

When asked if she set the fire to cover her tracks, Ellis answered, “possibly” according to court documents.

Ellis was charged with arson and burglary. She is scheduled for a jury trial in May.