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Juneau woman charged with arson for starting home fire

Prosecutors: Woman was drunk, angry and wanted ex-husband's attention

Posted: November 6, 2013 - 12:03am

A 44-year-old Juneau woman was arrested Sunday morning and charged with first-degree arson after she started a fire in her home in an apparent attempt to get her ex-husband’s attention after an argument.

Police said Lisa Catherine Ritter woke her ex-husband up to tell him what she did, and that he extinguished the fire before it spread or before anyone was injured.

Ritter pled not guilty to the crime during an arraignment on Monday, and she is being held at Lemon Creek Correctional Center on $15,000 bail pending trial.

According to an affidavit, police officers responded to the home in the 18100 block of Point Stephens Road at about 9:30 a.m. Sunday and found fire extinguisher dust all over the home’s arctic entry and the floors of the kitchen and living room.

The man reported to police, the affidavit states, that his wife woke him up and told him she was “burning this ****ing place down.” He said he could smell smoke, jumped out of bed and grabbed a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. He said he extinguished two fires: a garbage can in the kitchen and a cardboard box on the kitchen table that were on fire. He said he then chased Ritter out of the house by spraying her with the extinguisher and then called 911, the affidavit states.

Police interviewed Ritter, whom they described as being “moderately intoxicated,” outside the home, and she admitted to starting the fires because she was drunk and angry, according to the affidavit. She told officers that she and her ex had been divorced since 1991 but they still live together.

“She lit the fire because they were arguing about who owned the house and she decided “**** this, I’ll burn it down”,” prosecutors wrote.

Court documents indicate the woman also told police that she believed the house would not really burn down because it’s made of hardy plank.

“She just wanted to get (her ex-husband’s) attention,” prosecutors wrote.

Should Ritter make bail, the judge ordered that she not have contact her with ex. She is next scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 12 for a representation hearing.

First-degree arson is a class ‘A’ felony that can carry up to 20 years in prison. For a first time felony offense, it carries a presumptive sentencing range of five to eight years.

The charge encompasses the allegation of recklessly placing another person in danger of serious physical injury by intentionally damaging property by starting a fire.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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