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Gazette Premium Content Affidavit: Contractor was 'upset' when setting AFA fires

JAKOB RODGERS Updated: December 5, 2012 at 12:00 am

An Air Force Academy contractor told an El Paso County sheriff’s deputy that she set four fires inside an academy dorms because she was “upset, lonely and depressed,” according to court documents.

Michelle Smith, 38, was booked into the El Paso County jail on suspicion of first-degree arson, a class 3 felony, after admitting to setting the blazes inside Sijan Hall on Friday and Monday. She was held Tuesday evening in lieu of $25,000 bond.

None of the roughly 2,000 cadets living in the dorm were injured, said Meade Warthen, an academy spokesman.

The first fire, about 9:30 a.m. Friday, burned a couch and left debris spread across a co-ed meeting room, according to an arrest affidavit.

A second fire about 45 minutes later left smoke damage that rose to the ceiling and fire damage on curtains, as well as burned janitorial items on the floor, the affidavit said.

Smith later admitted to a sheriff’s deputy that she lit clothes on top of the couch, and left a burning piece of paper on the heater.

Two more blazes three hours apart on Monday burned the inside of trash compactor rooms on the dorm’s ground floor — each burning in trash that Smith allegedly set fire to, she told the deputy.

In each case, dorm rooms housing cadets surrounded the affected rooms.

Warthen said he did not know the name of the contractor who employed Smith. Academy firefighters put out the blazes, which did not cause any structural damage, he said.

The fires caused delayed a basewide exercise planned for Wednesday, a precaution taken so that the public wouldn’t think there was an actual emergency happening, the Associated Press reported.

According to the affidavit, Smith’s interview with the deputy ended with: “I know I should have not done it.”

Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter @jakobrodgers

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