A Roanoke woman accused of setting fire to a house that she shared with others pleaded no contest to the charge Friday and was sentenced to serve 17 months in jail.
Anne Marie Lawhorn, 47, was battling mental health concerns last November when she said she set fire to a piece of paper and left it in her room in the home on Baker Avenue Northwest, according to Friday’s court proceedings.
Other occupants of the house, including an 8-year-old, were able to escape unharmed, authorities said. A pet cat was missing in the aftermath.
One tenant reported running to grab a garden hose to extinguish the fire but said the flames had spread too far when he returned. The fire collapsed the roof of the 1 1/2-story rental home.
Lawhorn was seen crouching behind a van outside the house afterward, said assistant prosecutor Chrystal Smith.
She told investigators that she believed someone was trying to poison her and she wanted to expose them.
She said at the time she was on medication but had not taken it the night before, Smith said. The fire was reported just before 8 a.m. on Nov. 8.
After her arrest in November, Lawhorn spent about a month in treatment at Catawba Hospital, said defense attorney Allegra Black.
She underwent a competency evaluation last spring before her case proceeded, according to court records.
Lawhorn will receive credit on her sentence for the time she’s been in custody since her arrest. Under a plea agreement, she pleaded no contest to a felony count of arson.
She was sentenced to a total of five years with all but one year and five months suspended. She’ll be on supervised probation once released and required to adhere to mental health treatment recommendations.
Roanoke Circuit Judge David Carson commended her for doing well with her treatment before accepting Friday’s agreement.
Lawhorn’s last name has sometimes been listed as Rogers in records. She clarified in court that Lawhorn is her preferred name.