LOS ANGELES—Police officers arrested Tina Turner this week on suspicion of arson, reckless endangerment, and insurance fraud, following allegations that the legendary R&B; singer burned down her legs for financial gain.
The arrest is the culmination of a month-long investigation into the four-alarm blaze that injured three firemen, threatened nearby properties, and completely destroyed Turner's lower extremities. Payment of a $3.2 million insurance policy the entertainer had on her legs will be put on hold until after trial.
"At first it appeared to be just another accidental fire," lead detective Jason Hendricks said. "However, something about Ms. Turner's story didn't add up. She claimed to have gone to the store, only to return an hour later and find her lower half already in flames. Yet evidence seems to suggest that Ms. Turner was at the scene of the crime the entire time."
Added Hendricks, "We have strong reason to believe Tina Turner burned herself down."
According to investigators, Turner was on hand to show officials around the scene of the tragedy, and seemed to exhibit genuine grief over the loss of her two legs. Though Turner initially blamed the fire on an electrical shortage, investigators noted that everything of value in the surrounding area, including a $600 pair of high heels, had been removed prior to the blaze.
Investigators also found evidence of an accelerant, and determined that Turner's ankles had been packed with newspapers and other flammable materials. A further search of the wreckage turned up a bottle of turpentine, as well as a quart of lighter fluid, though Turner denied owning either.
When confronted with the new findings, Turner claimed that she had witnessed several teenagers sneaking around her legs the night before, and offered brief descriptions of three African American youths in hooded sweatshirts.
"She had us convinced at first," said Michael Schwartz, another crime-scene detective, who carried the legendary singer to the L.A. precinct to be fingerprinted. "But when we discovered that Turner had taken out a second insurance policy, only days before the blaze, our suspicions were confirmed."
"It's amazing what a little bit of money can make a person do," Hendricks continued.
This is the latest in a string of high-profile insurance scams. Last year, Jennifer Lopez claimed her posterior had been damaged in a rear-end collision, but was later spotted taking the intact buttocks to the gym. In 2005, Eric Clapton told officials that his hands had been stolen, though a three-month investigation later revealed that they were only hidden inside a pair of roomy sleeves.
"We intend to prosecute this crime to the greatest extent we can," said District Attorney Robert Gower, speaking on the steps of the Los Angeles Superior Court. "I don't care who you are or what you've done, no one—not even Tina Turner—is above the law. Let's just say she'll soon be doing her private dancing behind bars. And without legs."
Because she has residences in London, France, and Switzerland, a federal judge has refused Turner bail, calling her a possible flight risk. Throughout it all, Turner's lawyers have insisted that the charges are "absurd," and that their client will be exonerated.
"A trial will find Ms. Turner innocent of all charges," attorney Anthony Puterman said. "Our client was devastated by the loss of her legs, as she has many fond memories of walking, running, and performing with them. They were very much a part of her."
"Careless though it may have been, this was just an accident," Puterman continued. "Those legs were old and dry. Anything could have set them off."