A 12-year-old Elkhart girl fatally stabbed her stepmother after the woman confronted her about starting a fire in the family's apartment following an argument, police said.

Elkhart Police spokesman Sgt. Chris Snyder declined to say how many times the 50-year-old woman was stabbed, but said her injuries were so severe she died before emergency responders could take her to a hospital in the city about 15 miles east of South Bend.

The girl had argued with her stepmother late Thursday night and then started a fire in her own bedroom, police said. When the woman confronted her stepdaughter about the fire, police allege that the youngster stabbed her.

When the girl's 49-year-old father tried to restrain her, she allegedly stabbed him once before running from the apartment. Her father suffered a non-life-threatening wound, police said.

Officers arrested the girl Friday morning after finding her walking along railroad tracks with a female juvenile friend in nearby Bristol.

The girl hasn't been formally charged. She's being held at Elkhart County's juvenile detention center, pending an initial hearing that's expected within a few days.

Snyder said the girl, who was cooperative as police brought her into the detention center, is the youngest homicide suspect he can recall in his 17 years with the department.

"It's certainly tragic to think a 12-year-old can get to the point where she thinks her only option is to cause harm to somebody, especially her parents," he told the South Bend Tribune (http://bit.ly/1CX0LAO ).

He said department detectives are working to "figure out what led up to this."

Police don't know where the girl went or what she did in the hours after the fatal stabbing because they haven't been allowed to talk with her yet, Snyder said.

Because she is a minor and her parents were her alleged victims, a judge must appoint a legal guardian who will decide whether police can interview her. That step, along with appointing a public defender, is expected within a few days.

Snyder said detectives who work juvenile cases and patrol officers familiar with the neighborhood didn't know of any history of domestic violence at the home.

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com