Deputies: DNA linked woman to cold case arson scene

A woman with a lengthy criminal history is suspected of starting a fire at a Burien car wash after investigators said DNA from a cigarette butt left at the scene was linked to her.

The woman, Katherine Rose Smith, 32, committed the crime nearly three years ago, on Sept. 16, 2016, according to King County Sheriff’s investigators.

Security footage taken that day shows a gray minivan at the U-Do-It car wash at 11315 Des Moines Memorial Drive. Investigators said Smith was driving. The footage shows her minivan near where the fire started.

An employee said before the fire she muttered to herself, asked about who owned the car wash and asked about a set of hedge clippers and two golf clubs Smith claimed she lost.

A fire investigator with the King County Sheriff’s Office said Smith removed items from the minivan she was in, hung at least one on the wash control panel, put lighter fluid on the items and indicates she lit the fire with a match. Smith drove away without the van’s sliding door or driver’s door closed, they said.

Investigators collected three cigarette filters at the scene, and a test on one at the State Patrol Crime lab had Smith’s DNA profile, court documents show. The surveillance video showed no one else smoking in the area.

“The fire was an intentionally set fire without just cause or excuse, with self-service car wash bays on either side of the fire location sharing common walls, electrical service, and water/chemical delivery systems,” Fire Investigator Steven Crown wrote in a probable cause document. “Smith also failed to report this fire to 911, bystanders, employees, customers or the fire department, placing the property and lives of the others at risk.”

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