California

Woman says she set hay bale fires to foil zombies and a cult, prosecutors say

Monica Louise Berlin
Monica Louise Berlin Santa Monica County Sheriff's Department

A woman accused of setting two hay bale fires causing more than $20,000 damage in Half Moon Bay, California, said she set the blazes to prevent a ‘zombie apocalypse’ and a ‘cult massacre,’ respectively, authorities say.

Deputies arrested Monica Louise Berlin, 39, of El Granada, California, on Friday following a 20-mile chase, during which she livestreamed part of the pursuit on Facebook.

She’s accused of burning 900 bales of hay worth $10,800 on June 26 and then another 865 bales worth $9,180 in the same field July 3, San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies told KTVU.

According to court documents, Berlin told firefighters at the first blaze “this was about the zombie apocalypse,” reported The Mercury News. At the second fire, she told a neighbor she burned the hay to “prevent a cult from committing a massacre.”

Berlin pleaded not guilty Tuesday to arson and evading arrest, the publication reported.

After an investigation identified Berlin as a suspect in the fires, a San Mateo County deputy tried to pull her over about 7 p.m. Friday, but she took off in her 2004 Volvo station wagon, KTVU reported.

“Oh my God, you guys,” Berlin said in her 49-second livestream video, which has since been taken down, reported The Mercury News. “Like I was covering this criminal conspiracy with the police department, and now they’re all chasing me, and it’s so scary. Oh my God! Oh my God! They’re going to shoot me, or something crazy …”

Berlin eventually pulled over in Atherton, California, about 20 miles from Half Moon Bay, and was arrested, KTVU reported.

Her mother, Leslie Berlin, wrote in an email to the Half Moon Bay Review that her daughter began suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and delusional disorder following a custody dispute over her son four years ago.

“This started her odd behaviors, fixed delusions and conspiracy theories involving tech companies and the government,” Leslie Berlin wrote.

In 2015, Monica Berlin filed a lawuit against San Mateo County supervisors, Foster City police and others claiming assault, libel and slander, reported the Half Moon Bay Review. Her suit was later dismissed.

Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

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