HARTFORD -- Robert May’s 41st birthday on Thursday probably seemed like a bad April Fools’ joke.


On Thursday morning, his house burned. In the afternoon, his ex-girlfriend was taken into custody for allegedly setting the fire, and by day’s end, police had arrested him in the theft of a truck.

Lt. John Grigg of the Hartford Police Department said May indeed had a bad day.The fire that ruined May’s house at the corner of First and Olive streets started just before 2 a.m., and by noon, he was sitting in the Madison County Jail in Edwardsville.

Hartford Fire Chief Ron Cobine said May called 911 early Thursday after coming home and finding his house ablaze.

"By the time (firefighters) got there, it was fully involved," Cobine said.

He said black smoke and flames were shooting out the front and side windows of the single-story, white-sided house when firefighters arrived. He said the fire, which started in the living room, quickly spread, destroying at least 80 percent of the house.

Cobine said he called the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office because the cause of the fire looked suspicious.

Hours later, authorities took May’s ex-girlfriend, who they declined to identify, into custody. She is expected to be charged today in connection with the fire.

Grigg said police had questioned the woman earlier Thursday morning but didn’t have enough evidence to hold her. He said she was arrested later, after the fire marshal’s investigation.

He said the couple had an "on again, off again" relationship.

Just when May probably didn’t think his day could get any worse, police said they saw him steal a pickup truck across the street from the police station.

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