A Connecticut woman is in hot water, to put it lightly, after she helped set a fire that destroyed two businesses when someone took too long to pay her back some money she was owed. And in words that may well be making their first appearance in a crime story, a potato helped crack the case.
19-year-old Willow Martin, a stripper, is accused of setting a fire over a debt her ex best friend, Breonna Constantino, a fellow dancer at Hollywood Connecticut Strip Club, owed her.
That fire destroyed MTM Masonry and the Golden Wok Chinese restaurant back on September 15, 2015.
The friends became enemies after a trip to Wildwood, New Jersey where Willow loaned Breonna $1,200 for clothes, according to the warrant, and Breonna was taking her sweet time repaying that debt.
She was arraigned Wednesday on a variety of charges, including arson, and remains in custody in lieu of $110,000 bail at the women’s prison in Niantic.
Ms. Martin was also known for saying “I’ll burn their shit down” when she was upset with at someone, which didnâ€™t help her case any. She even, at one point, had set fire to her own mother’s house when she was mad at her.
Willow Martin chose MTM Masonry as her target because it was owned by Breonnaâ€™s stepfather.
The big break in the case, however, came when said stepfather found a potato stuffed into the tailpipe of his van after learning of the fire. That potato, it turns out, had Ms. Martinâ€™s then-boyfriendâ€™s DNA on it.
The victim pulled the potato out of the tailpipe, took it with him, then gave it to cops, who had it analyzed for DNA.
State lab analysts found the DNA of 28-year-old Matthew Garguilo, who police already knew to be Ms. Martin’s boyfriend.
State police arson investigators, in the meantime, determined that the fire that destroyed MTM Masonry and the Golden Wok was arson, and that gasoline had been used to start it.
Willow flat refused to talk to state police, but Breonna told them about their recently ended friendship, all about the fallout over money, and her suspicion that her ex-bestie had been the one to set fire to her stepfather’s business. She also suspected Mr. Garguilo was somehow involved as well.
Garguilo sang like a bird to investigators and told them that Ms. Martin had set the fire, and even admitted he was with her when she did it.
The fire had followed many weeks of back-and-forth arguments over the money between Willow and Breonna, even though by the time the fire was set, Breonna had paid back most of the money. She only owed Willow $300-$400 more to be all paid up…and that was Willowâ€™s own boyfriend telling authorities this.
Mr. Garguilo insists that he didnâ€™t set the fire, and didnâ€™t even want to help her. He says he only went along with it because he was scared that Willow would â€œfind another guyâ€.
On the way to set the fire, he stopped at a gas station and filled a gas can he’d taken from his parents’ house. He says he filled the can because it was “the manly thing to fill it up,” but swears he wasnâ€™t even the one whoâ€™d paid for that gas.
Once they arrived at MTM Masonry, he says he watched Willow break in through a window. He claims he stayed outside.
When she started the fire, an explosion threw her through a door “just like in the movies,” he told cops.
They then left, but returned to the scene later and high-fived each other.
Mr. Garguilo also says that Willow was the one that stuffed the potato into the tailpipe. He says his DNA was only on it because heâ€™d handled it previously. Ironically, he told investigators, sheâ€™d even been pulled over by police just a few days after the fire, and had been asked by the officer why there was a potato in her purse.
A man whoâ€™d started dating Ms. Martin after Mr. Garguilo had, told detectives that sheâ€™d told him about the fire and potato too.
Her ex-beau was charged in connection with the fire, and now sits in jail on a $20,000 bail.
Willow Martin was charged with second-degree arson, third-degree burglary, possession of burglar’s tools, first-degree criminal mischief, attempted first-degree criminal mischief, and five counts of conspiracy.