Craig woman to serve six months in jail after pleading guilty to arson
January 16, 2019
CRAIG — The person who started a fire that destroyed a trailer house in the early hours of Nov. 30 pleaded guilty in Moffat County court on Wednesday, Jan. 16.
Jessica Kane, 38, admitted to starting and/or maintaining the fire at a home in Cedar Mountain Trailer Park, where she had been staying with her friend, Murray Fenstermacher.
According to Craig Police Department Officer Mike Edwards' statement in a warrantless arrest affidavit, Kane said she used a lighter to set fire to a sweater because "I thought there were people in the house, and I didn't have a phone to call 911." He also said she was "scared." Edwards wrote of "prior contact" with Kane "where she claimed there were people who were in places they could not fit and people were there where no such people actually existed."
According to the affidavit, Fenstermacher was not in the home at the time of the fire, but another man, Joseph Frates, was asleep in the residence. Two dogs were also inside the dwelling. When the fire alarm failed to awaken him, Frates told Edwards, Kane woke him up by yelling the house was on fire.
Kane was originally charged with first-degree arson — a felony — reflecting that her actions recklessly endangered another person.
When she appeared in the courtroom Wednesday, it was to accept a plea bargain by admitting guilt to a reduced, misdemeanor arson charge.
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The deal also resulted in the dismissal of unspecified charges from another case.
In his statements to the court, Deputy District Attorney James Hesson said Kane had “limited prior criminal history.” Hesson said Kane’s past offenses appeared to be drug-related and “no one had been injured in the fire,” the cause of which “appeared to be drug-related mental health issues at the time.” Hesson said the victim in this case felt Kane’s plea deal and penalty were sufficient for the crime.
Public defender Abigail Kurtz-Phelan spoke on her client’s behalf, asking the court to take into account “the facts showed an accidental fire” and that her client “put herself in danger in an attempt to mitigate.” She also noted that Fenstermacher, the victim, had not wanted charges to be brought or the matter to go to court.
Kane’s remarks were limited to saying she was guilty of the charge. Sentence was passed by 14th Judicial District Chief Judge Michael A. O’Hara III, who filled in for Moffat County Judge Sandra Gardner Wednesday after she was suddenly called away due to a family emergency.
O’Hara said the court would accept the guilty plea on lesser charges and sentenced Kane to six months in jail, crediting her with 48 days time served. The judge noted the penalty for the original charge could have resulted in a year in jail and a fine of $1,000 or more.
Kane is indigent, a fact O’Hara noted when waiving all fines and fees of the court, “so once your time is served, this will be done and behind you,” he said.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.