Arlington Heights woman charged with setting fire to Des Plaines shrine

An Arlington Heights woman faces an arson charge alleging she set the fire early Tuesday that caused significant damage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, police announced Wednesday.

Virginia Roque-Fermin, 41, of the 4200 block of Jennifer Lane, was arrested after officers responded to a report of a fire at the shrine at 2:31 a.m. Tuesday, police said.

According to police, the officers saw Roque-Fermin quickly walking away from the flames burning a portion of the shrine known as the Chapel of the Resurrected Christ. The officers also observed soot on the front of her clothes and detained her for further investigation, police said.

Des Plaines police say an Arlington Heights woman faces an arson charge in connection with a fire early Tuesday morning that significantly damaged a portion of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Courtesy of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Investigators later reviewed video surveillance footage from the shrine that shows Roque-Fermin carrying statues, buckets, chairs, planter pots and other objects toward the cave/grotto area, police said. She is then seen starting a fire and continuing to carry surrounding objects toward the blaze to stoke the flames, police said.

Roque-Fermin appeared in court Wednesday, when a Cook County judge ordered her held on $200,000 bail. She remained in custody at the county jail Wednesday evening and is scheduled to return to court June 8.

Des Plaines police Cmdr. Matthew Bowler said Wednesday that investigators have not yet established a motive for the suspected arson. A spokesman for the shrine said Tuesday that the suspect was not someone familiar to its staff.

The fire is estimated to have caused more than $78,000 in damage to the shrine, at 1170 N. River Road, on the campus of Maryville Academy.

The shrine's spokesman that the fire significantly damaged the chapel, which surrounds a statue of Jesus on the west plaza of the shrine. That statue and statues of St. Jude and St. Michael the Archangel were destroyed by the fire.

The shrine on Wednesday launched an online fundraiser at seeking $50,000 in donations to help repair the chapel.

"Although we are very saddened by the painful vandalism, we wish that through the help of our community, we can reconstruct the outdoor Chapel of the Resurrected Christ, also known as 'the Altar of Miracles,'" the fundraising page states.

Commemorating reported visions of Jesus' mother, Mary, in Mexico City in 1531, the site is the most-visited shrine in the U.S. dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, behind only the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico.

Fire at shrine causes ‘significant’ damage

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