Carlton woman pleads guilty to negligent fireLois Smith will pay restitution, enter an alcohol treatment program and spend three years on probation in connection with the December fire that destroyed a Carlton apartment building, damaged the adjacent bar and left her and 12 others homeless.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Lois Smith will pay restitution, enter an alcohol treatment program and spend three years on probation in connection with the December fire that destroyed a Carlton apartment building, damaged the adjacent bar and left her and 12 others homeless.
Smith, 50, was sentenced last Thursday in Carlton County District Court and four of the people left displaced attended the proceedings. Former resident Mike LaFave made a statement saying although they lost everything, the court could not bring back their belongings.
“[Smith’s] drinking almost killed us,” he said. “Jail time isn’t going to do no good. I want her to get help.”
Smith’s attorney, Steven Coz, said Smith wanted to enter a treatment program as soon as possible and emphasized that Smith did not intend to harm anyone.
Smith, of Carlton, spoke briefly and cried, saying she was sorry about the fire and that she “didn’t mean it.”
The large amount of restitution Smith will be expected to pay was addressed by District Court Judge Robert McCauley Jr. Damages are estimated at nearly $500,000, but a final number has yet to be identified.
“The losses the victims have suffered are enormous and devastating,” McCauley said. “[Smith] does need to be obligated and try to repay. My expectation is [Smith] will pay restitution to the extent that [she’s] able.”
It is likely a later hearing will determine the actual amount Smith will be required to pay.
Smith, who has been in jail the majority of the time since Dec. 13, was scheduled to enter an alcohol treatment facility last Friday.
She pleaded guilty in Carlton County Court on Jan. 30 to one felony count of negligently starting the grease fire.
According to the criminal complaint, Smith and a friend had been drinking at the Third Base Bar until early in the morning on Dec. 13. The two returned to Smith’s apartment and began cooking some sliced potatoes in a pan of oil. An argument ensued and Smith’s friend left the apartment. Smith soon fell asleep in the kitchen and the grease caught fire. Her friend was not charged in connection with the fire.
Firefighters had been called to Smith’s apartment previously for similar reasons, according to Steve White, Carlton Fire Department chief, and no charges had been filed.
Pine Journal Editor Lisa Baumann can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.