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Venice Fla--Investigators Want to know why Charges Dropped

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  • Venice Fla--Investigators Want to know why Charges Dropped

    Arson charge against Venice woman dropped

    Investigators wonder why


    VENICE -- The state attorney has declined to prosecute a woman arrested by Venice police who confessed to arson.

    Sandra K. Hess, 45, was arrested and charged with arson April 4. The investigative report states Hess confessed to deliberately setting the fire in her home because she was mad and wanted attention. No one was injured in the blaze.

    Assistant state attorney Spencer Rasnake signed a declination of prosecution memo July 7. He could not be reached for comment.

    Meanwhile, law enforcement officers from four agencies are troubled over the state attorney's action. None would speak publicly on the issue.


    Hess watches fire

    The fire occurred at Hess's residence at 9:19 p.m. April 2. No one was injured in the blaze.

    According to the arrest report, Venice firefighters saw Hess standing in front of the burning building when they arrived.

    Once the fire was out, a state fire marshal conducted an investigation at the scene.

    Then Hess was brought to the Venice police station.

    "She came in willingly and confessed once confronted with facts about the fire and other incidents in her past," VPD Detective Mike Rose said.

    Rose could not elaborate about the incidents in her past because it was an ongoing investigation.

    The report states that Hess admitted setting fire to the bed in the master bedroom.

    The blaze did more than $50,000 damage to the home.


    Rose: confession not coercive

    Hess's attorney Derek Byrd said no one really knows what happened at the fire scene.

    "Police weren't there, fire (department) wasn't there," he said, "it would be difficult if not impossible for the state to prove (arson)."

    Byrd also said Hess confessed under duress.

    "That interview with detectives was coercive in nature," Byrd said. "They badgered and badgered."

    Rose denies badgering Hess.

    "There was nothing coercive about it," Rose said. "The fact I wouldn't buy her lies and challenged her was not coercive; I wasn't yelling and screaming."

    Rose said that after Hess gave her initial statement into a tape recorder, he turned off the recorder and confronted her with the inconsistencies in her story.

    "I told Sandra I knew about her other four fires and that she had been under surveillance in Guam around the time the fire there occurred ... after being confronted with all the evidence against her, Hess confessed to starting this fire," Rose stated in the report.

    Byrd said Hess had no motive for setting the fire.

    "She did not own the house, she rented; so there was no motive for insurance money and all her belongings were inside -- why would someone destroy their own belongings?" Byrd said. "She immediately notified neighbors that the place was on fire and called 911 herself."


    Family tattles

    Through Hess family members, Rose learned that the first of five suspicious fires Hess may have been involved in was in Guam in 1982 when her former husband was stationed with the military.

    Hess also was around at a second fire at a place where she lived in Balsam Lake, Wis., and a third in a mobile home in Venice in 1988.

    "After that she stayed with her sister and that apartment mysteriously caught on fire." Rose said. "This is the fifth highly suspicious fire that she has been around."

    Byrd said allegations are just that.

    "You can make all the allegations you want," he said. "As far as I know, she had never been arrested in her life."


    Wanted attention

    The investigative report states that Hess and her husband had been drinking heavily since 2:30 p.m. on the day of the fire. After they returned home that evening, she accused him of cheating on her. That made him mad and he left the house, she said.

    Rose's report continued:

    "Hess said she threw a cigarette under the bed and then lit another object (she couldn't remember what) and threw it under the bed, setting her bed on fire. Sandra said once the bed was burning, she went and sat on the living room couch until noises from the fire scared (her) and she fled the condo as she called 911.

    "Hess said she did this because she was mad, upset and wanted attention."

    You can e-mail Tommy McIntyre at:

    [email protected].


    BY TOMMY MCINTYRE

    Staff Writer
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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