Today Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist charged Melinda Sayers, 37, with arson in the first degree and presenting false insurance claims. She intentionally set fire to her South Hill home and collected insurance money afterwards. She also collected donations online through a social media page. The defendant pleaded not guilty and is being held in lieu of $200,000 bail.
“This is another reminder to ‘trust but verify’ before donating money to people or causes,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.
In 2013, the defendant gave birth prematurely to her daughter. As a result, the child was hospitalized for nearly a year. On Apr. 1, 2014, the day before the child was scheduled to be released from the hospital, the defendant lit a candle in her living room and opened the valve on her daughter’s medical oxygen tank to start and fuel a fire. She called 911 to report the fire and exited the home with her 2-year-old son. Afterward, she spoke to several media outlets and was presented to the public as a ‘Supermom’ for saving her son from the fire.
When detectives initially interviewed the defendant, she said she didn’t know how the fire started. She told them she opened her bedroom door and saw black smoke, so she closed the door, lowered her son to the ground from her bedroom window and then climbed out.
Investigators questioned the defendant’s story when they discovered a handheld butane lighter on the living room couch and felt her story didn’t match the evidence.
During an interview this week with detectives, the defendant admitted to intentionally starting the fire. She also said she did not want her daughter to come home. The baby died at the hospital one day after the fire.
The investigation of her financial gain from the arson is ongoing.
Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Communications and Public Information Coordinator
Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office