Washougal woman accused of torching her home

She was facing foreclosure, divorce, prosecutors say

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: July 28, 2011, 6:10 PM

 

A 50-year-old Washougal woman going through a bitter divorce and an impending foreclosure is accused of setting a January fire that destroyed her home.

Billinda Jantzer had allegedly planned to torch the house while she stayed inside in what was described in court documents as a suicide attempt. Her son, concerned over a grim text message, rushed to the house and rescued Jantzer from the fire, according to court documents filed Thursday.

Jantzer was charged with first-degree arson and summoned to appear in Clark County Superior Court on Aug. 9.

Firefighters were called to the fire the afternoon of Jan. 12 at the home, 530 S.E. Blair Road. A large plume of smoke was reported as the call came in. Firefighters arrived to find the rear of the home engulfed in flames, authorities said.

As firefighters battled flames, the house began collapsing.

Prosecutors allege in court documents that Jantzer told investigators she was depressed because her 30-year marriage was about to end. Also, she had gotten behind in mortgage payments and her estranged husband, Jon, had filed a motion with the court to get her out of the house by Jan. 14.

She formed a desperate plan, prosecutors allege.

“She stated that Jon had never liked the house, never liked all of her decorating in the house and always wanted to move,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

So, prosecutors said, she came home from work and errands, took a can of gasoline and poured it in the garage, in bedrooms and on stairs. Then, Jantzer then went into the family room and allegedly set fire to a blanket on the couch, according to court documents.

That’s when her oldest son, Justin, arrived at the house, yelling for her to come outside. She met him in the driveway and the two left the premises.

No one was hurt.

Fire investigators zeroed in on Jantzer after a neighbor said they saw her and her son driving away as the house went up in flames, according to court documents.

A week later, a deputy fire marshal ruled the blaze was an arson and forwarded reports to the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office for review.

The home was owned by the couple, according to county records. The property is assessed at about $355,000, with the house assessed at about $224,000.

Their divorce case is still pending, according to court records.