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Thursday, June 30, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Houston teacher's car torched; two students pass class

The Associated Press

HOUSTON — A chemistry teacher who was at least three months behind on her car payments gave passing grades to two failing students who stole and burned her car so she could collect insurance money, a fire investigator said.

Aldine Senior High School teacher Tramesha Lashon Fox, 32, was charged with insurance fraud and arson, and the two students were charged with arson.

Roger Luna, 18, and Darwin Arias, 17, had been failing Fox's class up to their final exam. But Arias received a 90 and Luna an 80, grades high enough to pass the semester, said senior fire investigator Dustin Deutsch of the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office.

Luna was arrested Tuesday. Bail was set at $10,000, and he was expected to be arraigned today, said a Harris County Sheriff's Department spokesperson.

Neither Fox nor Arias was in custody yesterday afternoon, and they could not be reached.

The teens initially thought her scheme was a joke, but Fox continued to pursue them, Deutsch said. On May 27, the last day of school, the students took the unlocked 2003 Chevrolet Malibu from a shopping mall, drove it to a wooded area and set it on fire, he said.

Fox reported the theft that day, after having bought a 2005 Toyota Corolla, investigators said. She owed about $20,000 on the Chevrolet and had been facing repossession, Deutsch said.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company




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