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Students sad, shocked after fires at Mount St. Joseph

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

By David Eck

ST. LAWRENCE DEANERY — Students, faculty and staff at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Delhi remained stunned and saddened this week after a student was charged with setting multiple fires on campus March 5.

Freshman Jordan Cullen, 18, was arrested early March 6 and charged with two counts of aggravated arson. At press time she was still being held on $200,000 bond. No motive for the fires has been offered.

The tragedy was compounded when student Daviene Hutsell,  28, an arts and business major, died after suffering an apparent seizure while buildings were being evacuated. Two students were treated for smoke inhalation.

A prayer service was held March 6 for Hutsell, a commuter student. Grief counselors were called in to help students and faculty deal with the death.

Five small fires were set in two buildings at the school, fire officials said. Firefighters were first called to a fire in the arts building on the campus for a fire on bulletin board. In addition to a second fire in the arts building, three fires were soon discovered in restrooms in Seton Center, a dormitory and office building.

“When the news came out that [the fires] were arson, students and faculty and staff just couldn’t believe it,” said Jeannette Bryson, manager of media relations at the college. “It was really just [a reaction] of dismay and disappointment.”

Directional fire suppression systems quickly put out the fires and kept water damage to a minimum, Bryson said.

She said students were surprised by the turn of events because of the tight-knit feeling on the campus.

“I think they all felt really lucky that no one was hurt in the fire, but [they’re] really angry. There was an anger among the students.”

The fires, which occurred the day before students left for spring break, forced the campus to close during that day on March 5, but classes resumed that evening, Bryson said.

The fires did cause some anxious moments, particularly for art students.

“Art students were a little concerned about their artwork,” Bryson said. “They didn’t really know the extent of the damage in the arts building.”

Damage was assessed at roughly $20,000, according to Delhi fire officials.

A graduate of The Summit Country Day School in Cincinnati, Cullen is an avid tennis player who played on the college tennis team in 2008. An art education major at the college, she was a four-year varsity letter-winner at Summit, where she served as senior co-captain and helped the team advance the quarterfinals of the Division II Ohio State Team Championship, according to Mount St. Joseph’s 2008 women’s tennis guide.

While in high school, Cullen was active in several extra-curricular activities, including bowling, knitting and cooking, the guide says.  Her parents, Francis Cullen and Paula Dubeck, are both members of the faculty of the University of Cincinnati.

“It was very sad for a number of people,” Bryson said.

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