Music teacher, son charged in connection with 2007 fatal arson

Indianapolis, Ind.

Officers with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department arrested a 62-year-old music teacher for allegedly starting a fire that killed her husband four years ago.  

Police said Gwendolyn Kirch, a teacher at St. Pius X Catholic School, is responsible for a fatal arson on April 3, 2007.  

Firefighters responded to the home in the 7000 block of Eastwick Lane in the early morning hours of April 3.  When they arrived, the home was engulfed with heavy smoke and fire.  

According to the probable cause, Gwendolyn told police her husband, 57-year-old David Kirch, woke her up to tell her their home was on fire.  She said David ran into the kitchen for the phone.  When the cordless phone on the ground level was not working, Gwendolyn said her husband went upstairs to find his cell phone.  Gwendolyn stated she tried calling for husband but did not receive a response.  She then ran to a neighbor’s house to call 911.

Firefighters with the Lawrence Township Fire Department found David in the master bedroom of the home.  An autopsy revealed he died as a result of the fire.  

An officer on the scene questioned Gwendolyn.  The probable cause states Gwendolyn repeatedly asked what caused the fire, but did not ask about David.  

An arson investigator with the Indiana State Fire Marshall’s Office responded to the scene.   The investigator’s initial investigation found evidence that revealed the fire was not set accidently.  Samples from the carpet matched gasoline samples obtained from several containers found inside the family’s garage.  

IMPD officers arrested Gwendolyn at her home on Pawtucket Court Tuesday after a long investigation, involving detectives from IMPD Homicide, IMPD/IFD Arson, Indiana State Fire Marshall’s Office and several additional investigators.  

In court Thursday, Gwendolyn was supported by friends, family and Father Jim Farrell, the head pastor of St. Pius X.  A judge issued a no contact order for at least a dozen people, including Gwendolyn’s son, daughter-in-law and other family members.

Gwendolyn was charged with three counts of arson and one count of conspiracy to commit arson.

Additionally, the judge is reviewing charges and determining a probable cause against Gwendolyn’s son, 26-year-old Thomas Kirch.  There is a summon issued for Thomas to appear in court, who is believed to be living overseas.  

According to the probable cause, Thomas surprised his parents with a visit the night of the fire.  Gwendolyn told police before her son left to drive home, her husband gave him a credit card to fill up his gas tank.  She said her son left around 10:35 p.m. to return to Morocco, Ind.

Thomas is currently charged with three counts of arson and one counts of conspiracy to commit arson.

The probable cause states Gwendolyn met with representatives of State Farm multiple times, following the fire.  Representatives of State Farm showed lab reports of the gasoline analysis and reports of the forensic computer analysis.  On March 4, 2008, State Farm representatives took a final statement from Gwendolyn, who stated it was a set fire.  Police said she refused to review the documents with Thomas because it “was too painful.”

Gwendolyn is expected back in court October 25. The jury trial is expected to begin November 21.

St. Pius X Catholic School released the following statement Thursday:

"We have been informed by an attorney representing Gwendolyn Kirch, music teacher at St. Pius X School, that she was arrested September 27 related to an incident that occurred at her home four years ago. The arrest did not happen at the school. This is all the information we have at this time. We are asking members of our school family and parish to keep Mrs. Kirch and her family in their prayers during this difficult time."

Gwendolyn was placed on paid leave, according to Father Jim Farrell at St. Pius. 

“We’re here to support Mrs. Kirch,” said Father Farrell.  “She’s a fine teacher in our school and we believe in her. She’s been part of our parish community for quite a few years and so we’re here to stand with her and support her in any way we can.”

Gwendolyn has been a teacher for 29 years.

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