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Mother is arrested on arson charges

Daughters inside Providence home

PROVIDENCE -- A Providence mother allegedly barricaded herself in her home and tried to burn down her house with her two daughters inside, after police came to her door with an arrest warrant.

State Police arrived at the one-story ranch house on Ophelia Street at about 9:30 p.m. with a warrant for the arrest of 37-year-old Tonya Balletta, Providence police told The Providence Journal. The warrant was for violation of banking laws.

After she refused to open either the front door or a side door for them, the police called for backup and broke down the front door, said Providence police Sergeant Dean Isabella.

Once inside, they smelled smoke and found the door barricaded to a rear bedroom. When they knocked that door down, as well, they found the room on fire and Balletta brandishing a kitchen knife at them. Her two daughters were also in the room.

Several officers circled around to the outside of the room and smashed a window with a flashlight to let smoke out. Balletta then lunged at those officers with the knife, while those still inside tried to extinguish the fire.

"In my 34 years, this is one of the most bizarre runs I've been on," said the acting assistant police chief, Manny Costa.

Police eventually grabbed Balletta and pulled her and one of her daughters through the window. The other daughter, who had at some point escaped from the burning room, was found in a closet elsewhere in the house.

"It was frustrating, because we knew there was a child in there, and we couldn't get to her," Isabella said of the child who had remained in the burning room.

Both children were sent to Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, one in serious condition, while the mother was arrested on charges of first-degree arson.

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