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La Center woman gets 9 months in fire

She set mobile home ablaze after boyfriend broke up with her

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published: May 26, 2017, 8:00pm

A La Center woman who set multiple fires inside the mobile home she was renting, following a breakup with her then-boyfriend, was sentenced Friday to nine months in jail.

Cindy Jo Clem, 50, previously pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to second-degree domestic violence arson and entered an “in re Barr” plea to third-degree assault, which allows a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser related charge she didn’t commit in order to avoid conviction for a greater offense.

Clem set fire to a mattress, kitchen tablecloth and living room curtains during the Nov. 22 incident north of La Center, court records show, and then called her former live-in boyfriend and made threats to perish in the fire. He had moved out of the residence days earlier.

Her former boyfriend called 911, and multiple Clark County sheriff’s deputies and firefighters with Clark County Fire & Rescue responded to the blaze at the double-wide mobile home, 4517 N.E. 372nd St., shortly before 9:30 p.m., authorities said.

The man told deputies that Clem had on numerous occasions threatened to burn down the home or shoot herself with his firearms because he broke up with her, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Superior Court.

Firefighters rescued Clem from the burning home after she was found semiconscious on the floor, according to Clark County Fire & Rescue. Clem was found near the back door, and it appeared she had attempted to leave the residence, the affidavit states.

Her attorney, Nick Wood, said Friday that Clem had a tumultuous upbringing and suffers from mental health issues. She had on more than one occasion tried to end her life, he said, and was self-medicating with alcohol.

“This was someone in crisis. This was someone so in crisis that she wanted to end her own life,” Wood told the judge.

Clem, who has no prior felony history, told the judge that she did not intend to cause the damage that she did.

“I am terribly sorry about the damage that was done,” she said.

Deputy Prosecutor John Farra said Clem owes about $62,000 in restitution for the damage to the home. A hearing will be set at a later date, however.

Judge Bernard Veljacic agreed to follow the attorneys’ previously agreed-upon sentencing recommendation of nine months in jail and 12 months of community custody. Clem was given credit for 184 days in custody. She will also have to undergo substance abuse and mental health evaluations and treatment.

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