TACOMA, Wash. - A Tacoma woman who set fire to some of her husband’s belongings because she suspected him of cheating was charged with arson Wednesday after her frightened children called a family member and said the house was filling with smoke, prosecutors said.
Pierce County prosecutors said that around 10 p.m. on Sunday, 32-year-old Jenny Mena piled photographs, a gift box, lingerie and other items on her bedroom floor and set it on fire. Her four children, ages 7 to 13, were home.
Authorities said the 13-year-old called her uncle in Arizona and told him that her parents got into a fight, and her mother was burning her father's things.
The girl told her uncle it was smoky in the house and that she told her three younger sisters to open windows and get into a closet.
The uncle called 911.
Responding officers said they saw children dressed in pajamas peeking out of an open upstairs window.
Police said they entered the smoke-filled house and found a pile of charred debris and three black marks on the wood floor where the fire started. Police said Mena put out the fire before officers arrived.
Prosecutors said the youngest girl told police she walked into her mother's room and saw a box that was "red from fire."
According to Fire Department personnel, the likelihood of the home catching fire was high because there was clothing and a bed inches away from the pile of burning debris.
Officials said a space heater was turned on, and there were piles of laundry covering the floors of every room, providing ready fuel.
The bedroom where the children had been hiding was directly above the room where the fire was set, and a lone staircase in the home was the only means of escape other than the second-story window, prosecutors said.
Mena was arraigned Wednesday. Her bail was set at $100,000.
"Arson is always dangerous, but especially so with children in the house," said Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. "The defendant has been charged with arson with aggravating circumstances for endangering the children."