Coral Springs Woman Arrested in Medical Plaza Arson

Teresa Bennett, 40, had last year told police that she was sexually assaulted and knocked unconscious by an attacker, police said.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Coral Springs police
    Teresa Bennett, 40, was taken into custody Friday on an arson charge, police say.

    A medical office worker rescued by firefighters from a fiery medical suite last year has been arrested on an arson charge, Coral Springs police said Friday.

    Teresa Bennett, 40, of Coral Springs, had last year told police that she was sexually assaulted and knocked unconscious by an attacker in the moments before a fire happened at Central Medical Plaza at 9750 NW 33rd St., police said.

    But Bennett was taken into custody Friday, accused of providing a false report of sexual assault and of setting the fire, police said.

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    Authorities said the fire at Hope Medical and Wellness has been classified as suspicious after a message was found drawn in red on the side of the building. Hollywood Fire Chief Joel Medina spoke about the fire, while nearby beauty salon owner Maria Sanchez and landlord Warren Stein discussed what they've seen in the area.

    During a lengthy police investigation, Bennett had kept changing her account of the attack and there was no evidence or injuries found to support her statements, police said.

    “After reviewing cell phone records, speaking with various witnesses, and reviewing all of the evidence, detectives determined the alleged victim was the person responsible for setting the office on fire,” police said in a statement.

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    Police say a woman and her 8-year-old son were inside the home in southwest Miami when the bottle was thrown through a window around 2 a.m. Neighbor Otano Dunieski was stunned by the incident.

    On June 11, 2012, firefighters found Bennett unresponsive inside the building while it was engulfed in flames, police said. The firefighters took her outside and treated her for smoke inhalation, a police spokesman said last year.

    When Bennett was taken to Broward Health Coral Springs, she was examined but no forensic evidence was found to substantiate the assault, police said.

    “The physical injuries, which are now being claimed by Bennett, are unlikely to have been missed during Bennett’s hospitalization,” the arrest report said.

    When questioned by police, Bennett said a man sexually assaulted her and knocked her unconscious -- and that the next thing she remembered was waking up in the hospital emergency room.

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    In the following days, police sought the public’s help to solve the case. Officers fanned out across several parts of the city to post and pass out fliers that offered a reward of up to $1,000 and contained a sketch of a man described by Bennett.

    One of her co-workers later told police that Bennett had previously said she didn’t want to be at work and had considered suicide, an arrest report said. The co-worker said she urged Bennett to get medical help, police said.

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    The same co-worker said Bennett often portrayed herself as someone who is being persecuted. A doctor in Bennett’s workplace said Bennett demonstrates attention-seeking behavior, police said.

    When police arrested Bennett in the arson case Friday, she also was arrested on charges of illegally having prescription drugs, based on pills found in her pocket, police said.

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