Phoenix woman charged in arson

A 47-year-old Phoenix woman is facing arson charges after allegedly setting an April 6 fire to destroy her roommate's property and severely damaging their apartment, authorities said.

Kathy Van Pelt faces two counts of first-degree arson and one count each of first-degree and second-degree criminal mischief stemming from the fire. She initially told investigators she had escaped with her dog only because the smoke alarm went off.

The first-degree arson charge upon conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of seven-and-a-half years in prison under Oregon law.

Van Pelt was indicted on the charges Thursday by a Jackson County grand jury and arrested on a warrant later that day, according to the Phoenix Police Department. She was arraigned on the charges Friday, and not-guilty pleas were entered on her behalf, court records show.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Tim Barnack on Friday set Van Pelt's bail at $50,000 and returned her to the Jackson County Jail, where she remained late Monday.

Phoenix police and Jackson County Fire District 5 initially responded to the fire in the 4500 block of South Pacific Highway to find thick smoke and flames in the apartment and Van Pelt just leaving through a door, fire crews said at the scene.

Neighbors said flames were shooting as high as 10 feet from the apartment, which suffered damage in the kitchen and laundry room, according to news accounts.

Fire crews quickly extinguished the flames, and the initial investigation determined that the cause was suspicious, police said Monday. Further investigation that included the Oregon State Police deemed the fire to be arson, police said.

Police said they interviewed Van Pelt and determined that she set the fire to destroy her roommate's property. Investigators did not say how she allegedly ignited the fire or whether any accelerants were used.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at

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