Judge: Mom's alleged arson an 'unacceptable response to stress'



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Posted on April 25, 2014 at 6:08 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 25 at 6:08 PM

TACOMA, Wash. -- The Puyallup mother arrested on arson charges told detectives stress made her do it.

But Friday a Pierce County judge called Melinda Sayers' actions an "unacceptable response to stress."

Sayers pleaded not guilty to arson and insurance fraud charges.

According to police, she admitted to starting a fire in her home with a candle and an oxygen tank.

The April 1 fire gutted the home, but she and her two-year-old son made it out of the home uninjured.

MORE: Puyallup mom accused of setting her own home on fire

The next day her infant daughter Abigail, who had been at Children's hospital at the time, died.

Abigail was born months premature and spent most of her short life in intensive care.

Sayers has not been accused of playing any role in the baby's death, but Pierce County Sheriff's spokesperson said it would only be "prudent" to investigate the death after they learned of the arson charges.

Sayers attorney, Don Winskill, said while there is no evidence linking his client to the baby's death, she has received death threats and as a result will not attend the baby's funeral.

Winskill said his client was under a tremendous amount of stress over the past year.

Last December Sayers lost her state nursing license after admitting to falsifying records and prescriptions.

The family filed for bankruptcy in 2013 as well.

Sayers' husband, Chris, has not been charged with any crime. The family's attorney says Chris Sayers is devastated.

The owner of the home destroyed in the fire described Sayers as a "good mom." Owner Tatia Korver said she was shocked to hear of the arrest.

"I'm angry it was my house and sad she felt she had to do it," said Korver.