Woman gets jail for arson

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 13:48 01/12/2012

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A drug-addicted woman has been jailed for her part in the burning of a treasured family home that was partially destroyed in a midnight blaze.

Alma Consquello Zeithe Chrstal Murphy, 29, admitted a charge of arson after she and three others threw a molotov cocktail through the living room window of a Winchester St house in Levin.

Nobody was injured but the fire caused $65,000 worth of damage and the owner lost precious possessions.

It was not known who threw the explosive brew.

"The defendant says it was the other woman. The other woman says it was the defendant," defence lawyer Fergus Steedman said.

The Palmerston North District Court heard yesterday that the homeowner was Murphy's partner's ex.

In the lead-up to the February 19, 2011, arson, Murphy was burgled and she thought the homeowner was the culprit.

Threats were made that her house was "going up in flames" and they were acted on.

"You took off, leaving the house burning, with no knowledge as to whether there was someone inside. No-one called the fire brigade anonymously," Judge Barbara Morris told Murphy.

"Fortunately the victim was not inside the house. Fortunately no firefighters were injured or killed putting it out."

The four arsonists all laughed about their work.

A victim impact statement likened the homeowner's sense of loss to a relative dying. She had lived in the house for 30 years.

Murphy had a tough upbringing, and was taken into care aged 12.

The judge said she deserved sympathy for that, although it was no excuse for her offending.

Mr Steedman said Murphy had a long-time drug addiction but the few months she had so far spent in custody were having some effect on her.

"She accepts she's done wrong and she knows there's a punishment she has to embrace."

Receiving credit for her guilty plea, Murphy was jailed for two years and 10 months.

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- Manawatu Standard

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