Courtney Bullock takes a selfie with her husky, Nevada. The 9-month-old dog died in a house fire on Jan. 22, 2017. (Courtesy of Courtney Bullock)
Monica Lamping, 30, was charged with arson in connection to the Jan. 22 fire of her Sullivan Boulevard home. (Adrienne Mayfield/Southside Daily)
This image was used on social media when police were looking for Monica Lamping and her children. (Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Police Department)
VIRGINIA BEACH — When Courtney Bullock first learned that her Sullivan Boulevard home caught fire in January, leaving two of her pets dead, she believed it was an accident.
But the 23-year-old doesn’t believe that anymore.
Bullock’s ex-roommate, Monica Lamping, 30, was charged with arson on Monday in connection with the fire at 4932 Sullivan Blvd.
The arrest came more than two months after the Jan. 22 fire displaced Bullock and killed her dog, Nevada, and cat, Boss.
The 9-month-old husky and 3-year-old cat died of smoke inhalation. Bullock said they were trapped in her bedroom during the fire.
In a Monday news release, the Virginia Beach Fire Department wrote that there are other charges pending against Lamping. The VBFD declined to list them, but Bullock believes they are animal cruelty charges related to the death of her “furbabies.”
Mysterious fire; missing family
The fire was first reported around 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 22 by a neighbor who saw the blaze. Hours later, Lamping was declared missing along with her 7-year-old son, Kai, and 9-month-old daughter, Oria.
The hours leading up to the fire were mysterious. Police received tips that Lamping had gone on a date to an area Chipotle with a man named Chad, and that he’d promised to fix her car.
Bullock had never heard of Chad, which was odd considering the women chatted about their dating lives.
Lamping’s friend watched her kids while she went on the date.
Lamping picked the kids up around 5:30 p.m. and told her friend she had to go babysit. A babysitter by occupation, she later canceled the appointment, according to her ex-husband, a 31-year-old Naval officer named Kevin Lamping.
One of Lamping’s neighbors reported seeing the mother load a bag into her green Jeep Cherokee on Saturday afternoon after 5:30 p.m.
Around 6 p.m., Lamping texted Bullock and asked if she’d be home that night. Bullock’s phone was dead, and she never responded.
Bullock said she’d planned to go home that night, but decided around midnight to stay with her boyfriend because she needed to get up at 5 a.m. for work.
The decision may have saved her life, Bullock said, adding that she’s a heavy sleeper and may not have woken up in time to escape the house.
A three-day police search ended on Jan. 25 when Lamping and the kids were found safe at an “off-the-grid” commune in North Carolina, Bullock said.
In January, Bullock told a Southside Daily reporter that she couldn’t fathom Lamping starting the fire on purpose. She said the mother seemed like a happy person who had a deep love for animals.
Bullock also doubted her ex-roommate would start a fire with animals in the home. Two cats survived the blaze, Kenji and Pandora. Kenji belonged to Lamping and was a favorite of Kai’s.
The women didn’t speak for about five days after Lamping was found. Bullocked reached out to her on Jan. 30 via text message. Screenshots of the texts were provided to a Southside Daily reporter.
“Hi there,” Bullock wrote.
Lamping wrote back, “Courtney I heard what happened. I am so ridiculously sorry about what happened to Nevada and Boss. I am so heartbroken over what happened. I hope you are doing okay.”
Bullock felt that Lamping was sincere. She wrote back that she was heartbroken over the death of her animals and asked why the mother had left.
Lamping said she couldn’t tell her.
“I can’t get into the details about why I left, but just know I care so much about you and our animals,” Lamping wrote. “I have just been so emotional.”
The messages were comforting to Bullock for a few days, but she began to get suspicious when a Feb. 4 message to Lamping went unanswered.
Some time later, Bullock realized Lamping had blocked her on Facebook.
“I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt,” Bullock said. “An innocent person who really cares about you doesn’t do that.”
A new emotion
Lamping’s arrest came as a relief to Bullock, who is still grieving the loss of her animals.
She said she’s never had a reason to feel so angry until now.
“This right now is a new emotion for me. Most people would classify this feeling as hate,” Bullock said, adding that she hopes the court case will bring her some closure.
Other small kindnesses have brought Bullock some relief, like a pillow and blanket featuring pictures of her and the pets, given to her by her boyfriend’s mother.
She was also given paw-print moldings of Nevada and Boss by the cremation service that handled their bodies. She plans to turn the paw prints into a memorial tattoo.
Still, when she found out Lamping was in jail, the first word that came out of her mouth was “Good.”
“I’m really glad I’m getting justice,” Bullock said.
Mayfield can be reached at email@example.com.