Teen charged in arson death of mom

Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2001

ANCHORAGE - A Soldotna teen-ager has been indicted on charges of setting her home on fire and killing her mother in September 1999.

Rebecca Richel, 19, was charged in the June 25 indictment with first-degree arson and second-degree murder almost two years after a house fire killed her mother, Dorothy, 51.

Dorothy Richel died of smoke inhalation.

Investigators say the fire started at several locations on the entry level of the two-story house.

Any time a fire starts in more than one place, it raises suspicion, said Gary Hale, an investigator with Central Emergency Services, who took part in a joint investigation with Alaska State Troopers and the state fire marshal's office.

"Strong evidence points towards arson," Hale said.

According to official reports at the time, Rebecca Richel heard the smoke detector sounding in the hallway and ran to the home of a neighbor, who called 911 at 4:40 a.m. She was not hurt in the fire.

The mother and daughter were the only people inside the house that night, according to a CES report.

Fire crews arriving within 10 minutes saw thick smoke and flames from the front door. They could not get upstairs because the stairway was heavily damaged in the fire. Fire damage was concentrated in the stairwell leading to the second floor and down to the basement, CES reported.

Firefighters raised ladders to upstairs windows and crawled in to find Dorothy Richel dead in an upstairs hallway.

Richel's obituary said she had been an operating room nurse at Central Peninsula General Hospital in Soldotna as well as at hospitals in Anchorage. She also had been a school nurse.

Even though Rebecca Richel was 17 at the time of the fire, her case is being tried outside the juvenile system. Anyone older than 16 charged with an unclassified felony is treated as an adult, according to Kenai District Attorney Dwayne McConnell.

Officials would not say why the investigation took nearly two years.

Richel is scheduled for an arraignment today at the Kenai courthouse. She was being held at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River on $100,000 bond.

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