Crime

Charges: Bellingham-area woman was drunk when setting fire to home with daughter inside

A woman was drunk when she lit her house on fire while her 12-year-old daughter slept inside Wednesday, May 6, according to charging documents filed in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Casey Ann Evans, 38, has been charged with first-degree arson after a fire investigator and detective caught her lighting her house on fire during a stakeout early Wednesday. When given a breath test, she blew 0.235, nearly three times the legal limit for driving, charges say.

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Detective Mark Wright and Fire Marshal’s Office investigator Mitch Nolze set up surveillance at the 3100 block of Locust Avenue on Tuesday night investigating a series of small fires that started in the area. Grass, a utility pole, a transport trailer, a wood shed and a garage were all set on fire over the course of the month leading up to Evans’ arrest.

When mapped out, the fires encircled Evans’ residence, 3195 Locust Ave., and occurred within 800 feet of the home, Nolze said. Evans had called 911 to report the fires.

Nolze said neighborhood residents, including Evans, were told that detectives would be taking measures to find out who was responsible.

Late Tuesday night, May 5, Nolze and Wright observed Evans repeatedly walk from her front door down a narrow alley between the house and garage to a private covered area. They saw a flickering light believed to be a flame when she was in the covered area. The pattern repeated itself for nearly an hour, charging documents say.

Detective Wright saw the flickering light grow, and realized that a significant fire had started on the side of the house. Nolze extinguished the fire and Wright ordered Evans to stop, to which “she appeared to be stunned, like a deer in headlights,” charges say. She said that her 12-year-old daughter was sleeping inside, but declined to say anything else.

Detectives found a glass half-filled with white wine and flammable materials underneath a makeshift table in the covered area that Evans kept walking to. They also found a lighter in her pocket.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Richardson said Evans did not have a history of mental health issues. Even though her daughter was in the house while it was lit on fire, he said Evans was not charged with attempted murder because he did not believe she intended to kill her child.

“Based on what we had initially, there wasn’t anything to support the idea that this was an attempt to burn the house down, with her daughter in it, specifically,” Richardson said.

Evans was being held in Whatcom County Jail on Friday, May 8, in lieu of $200,000 bail.

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