Washougal woman appears in court on arson charge

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: August 9, 2011, 6:00 PM

 

A Washougal woman made a first appearance Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of setting her house ablaze in an apparent suicide attempt.

Billinda Jantzer, 50, appeared before Judge John Nichols on suspicion of first-degree arson.

Nichols appointed defense attorney Gerry Wear to represent her.

Jantzer was not taken into custody following the brief hearing. The judge ordered her to be fingerprinted at the jail and follow a set of release conditions, including an order to stay away from her soon-to-be ex-husband, Jon Jantzer.

She will be arraigned Aug. 23.

Jantzer was facing a bitter divorce and the impending foreclosure of her house in January when she allegedly hatched a plan to torch the house while inside, according to court documents.

Her grown son, concerned over a grim text message that she sent him just before the fire, rushed to the house the afternoon of Jan. 12 and rescued her.

Firefighters were called to the fire at the home at 530 S.E. Blair Road. A large plume of smoke was reported as the call came in, and firefighters arrived to find the rear of the home engulfed in flames. The house was eventually destroyed by flames.

Fire investigators zeroed in on Jantzer after neighbors reported seeing her and her son driving away as the house went up in flames, according to court documents.

In an interview with investigators, Jantzer said she used gasoline to set the fire in the living room, according to court documents.

No one was hurt.

The home was owned by the couple and the property is assessed at about $355,000, according to county property records.

Their divorce is still pending.