Murder by burning


A Peachtree City woman was arrested Monday and charged with murdering her elderly mother-in-law in a north Peachtree City home 15 months ago, police said.
Valerie Lynn Dahlman, 41, of 402 Abrell Woods Court, is also charged with first degree arson relating to the death of Francis Dahlman, police said.
The investigation began when fire and police officials responded to Valerie Dahlman’s home in the Crabapple Woods subdivision Aug. 31, 2008 on the report of a fire. Francis Dahlman, who was in the basement of the home, had suffered burns while she was in a recliner, police said.
Francis Dahlman was flown by helicopter to Grady Memorial Hospital where she died as a result of her injuries, police said. The autopsy determined that she burned to death, according to District Attorney Scott Ballard.
Ballard said he was unaware of what might have caused Valerie Dahlman to kill her mother-in-law.
Scott and Valerie Dahlman were listed as the owners of the residence on local tax records. Francis Dahlman was living in the basement of the home at the time of the incident, officials said.
Scott Dahlman was also at home at the time of the incident, officials said.
Although the incident happened 15 months ago, there was no particular development in the case that triggered Valerie Dahlman’s arrest Monday, Ballard said.
There were a number of forensic tests conducted as part of the investigation, including some to test potential defense theories so they could be excluded before proceeding with the charges, Ballard said.
Days after the incident, fire officials said that the fire had to be extinguished before the victim could be removed from the chair.
From the start of the investigation, the cause of the fire was “not obvious,” according to city Fire Marshal John Dailey.
Valerie Dahlman was in Fayette County Magistrate Court Tuesday for a first appearance hearing. No bond decision was made at that hearing because such decisions must be made by a Superior Court judge on murder cases, according to Georgia law.
The murder-arson investigation has been a joint effort between Peachtree City police detectives, the Peachtree City Fire Department and the Georgia State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The last murder reported in Peachtree City was in October 2006 when Eric Ulrich was shot twice by his ex-wife April Ulrich in the parking lot of the NCR campus. April Ulrich pled guilty to the crime in November 2007.