By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office requested a $25,000 arrest warrant today for woman charged with first-degree arson in connection with a Morton house fire 14 months ago.
Kristin H. Skiles, 45, was summonsed by mail to appear this afternoon in Lewis County Superior Court but did not show.
The fire destroyed a two-story home on the 200 block of Third Street the morning of Dec. 20, 2015.
Prosecutors allege Skiles told a roommate she would burn the house down before the executor of the estate “or anyone gets anything.”
Nobody was injured, but three people were present, the fire chief said at the time.
According to charging documents, Skiles was being evicted because the house was going into foreclosure.
Her roommate Diana Stephens told police that when she arrived home that morning, the doors were nailed shut and Skiles was inside, sitting on the couch and made the statement about what she would do.
Skiles initially told police she’d been doing her hair and knocked an ashtray over, but in a follow up interview reportedly said she was suicidal and had once lit a small string on fire with her cigarette lighter, according to charging documents.
When she was interviewed again a month later, she said she couldn’t remember how it started but that she may have accidentally started it, the documents allege.
Fire Investigator Jay Birley concluded the origin was upstairs but the cause was undetermined. A fire investigator working on behalf of the insurance company concluded it could not have been begun the way Skiles first described based on studies that show how long it would take a discarded cigarette to ignite other materials.
Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead included statements gathered by the Morton Police Department from Stephens and also Mark Clevenger who was at the house that suggested the fire was intentionally set by Skiles.
Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told a judge this afternoon the summons had been sent to Skiles last known address in Morton and didn’t come back in the return mail.
First-degree arson has a maximum penalty of life in prison.
For background, read “News brief: Flames, water claim Morton house” from Monday December 21, 2015, here