San Mateo woman claims she burned $20k in hay bales to prevent cult killings

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An arson suspect accused of burning roughly $20,000 worth of hay bales on two separate occasions with bizarre explanations pleaded not guilty, (KGO-TV)

An arson suspect accused of burning roughly $20,000 worth of hay bales on two separate occasions with bizarre explanations pleaded not guilty to all charges Tuesday, San Mateo County prosecutors said.

Monica Louise Berlin, 39, allegedly set fire to 900 hay bales valued at roughly $10,800 in the vicinity of Seymour Street and state Highway 1 around 9:20 p.m. on June 26.

Berlin photographed the fire and apparently told firefighters responding to the blaze that it had something to do with the "zombie apocalypse," according to prosecutors.

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A week later, she allegedly returned to the same property and burned a second pile of hay bales valued at an estimated $9,180 around 9:50 p.m. on July 3.

The following day, prosecutors say she told her neighbor she had done so to prevent a cult from committing a massacre.

Then on Friday, she fled from police attempting to stop her in the vicinity of state Highway 92 and Canada Road, leading law enforcement on a 100 mph chase that ended with her arrest by the California Highway Patrol in Atherton.

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Berlin is currently represented by San Mateo County's Private Defender Program, but a staffer for the program said no attorney had been assigned to her case as of this morning.

She's currently being held on $100,000 bail and is scheduled to return to court on July 19 for a preliminary hearing.

For more stories, photos, and video on recent arsons across the Bay Area and the world, visit this page.
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arsonarson investigationsan mateo countyfirefirefighterspolicecultSan Mateo
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