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Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Female Arsonist

     Arson is mainly a man's crime, but women have gotten into the act. Men usually use arson to defraud insurance companies while women tend to set fires for pathological reasons.

Sadie Renee Johnson

     In July 2013, a wildfire broke out on the Warm Springs, Oregon Indian Reservation. Before being brought under control it scorched 51,000 acres and cost the federal government $8 million to extinguish. At least no one was injured.

     Two day after the start of the blaze, 23-year-old Sadie Renee Johnson wrote this on her Facebook page: "Like my fire?"

     Interrogated by detectives, Johnson confessed to intentionally setting the fire by throwing a firecracker from her car into roadside brush. She said she had no idea the fire would spread so fast, burn so much land, and threaten so many people. Asked why she committed arson, Johnson said she thought her firefighter friends were bored and needed work.

     On May 19, 2014, Johnson pleaded guilty to arson in federal court. Pursuant to the plea agreement the judge will sentence her in September to 18 months in prison. Under federal law the maximum penalty for this crime is five years behind bars and three years probation.

     To quote John Wayne, "Life is tough. It's even tougher when you're stupid."

Martha Dreher

     In early August 2014, Adam Williams came home to his empty house in Austin, Texas to find the dwelling filled with smoke. His father, Glenn Williams and Adam's two pre-teen sisters were out of town.

     Fire investigators determined that fires had been set in each of the girls' bedrooms. Due to lack of oxygen and highly combustable fuel, the fires had burned themselves out. Nevertheless, the 90-year-old  historic house, due to smoke damage, had to be gutted. So, who had committed this arson?

     Glenn Williams told detectives that a couple of months ago he had hired 57-year-old Martha Dreher to babysit his daughters. According to him, she had recently complained that the girls treated her with disrespect. As a result, she had threatened to quit.

     In reviewing surveillance camera footage, investigators saw Martha Dreher drive up to the Williams house. Twenty minutes later, when she drove off, flames could be seen in the bedroom windows.

     Based on this circumstantial evidence, a Travis County prosecutor charged Dreher with felony arson. At her arraignment, the suspect pleaded not guilty. Her attorney, Amber Bode, in speaking to reporters, said, "The thing that we are going to be pushing for--in addition to lie detection tests and everything else that we can do to prove her innocence--is evidence." (I cannot find a disposition of this case.)

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