Woman used accelerants to start fire that killed 2, police say

Published: Thursday, March 17 2011 10:10 p.m. MDT

Yvette Kimber, 45, is in the Utah County Jail for investigation two counts of murder and aggravated arson in connection with the Boulder Apartments fire that killed two people on Monday, March 14. Karen Murray and Catherine Crane died in the blaze.

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PROVO — The woman accused of starting a fire that killed two tenants of an apartment complex earlier this week now faces potential murder charges.

An amended booking sheet was filed late Tuesday for the arrest of Yvette Kimber, who was originally arrested for investigation of manslaughter. In her new jail records, the potential charges against Kimber were upgraded to two potential counts of murder and one count of aggravated arson.

The jail records were changed following the Provo fire marshal's investigation Tuesday, which revealed accelerants may have been used in the fire, according to jail records. Kimber allegedly made several attempts to purposely set her apartment on fire. When she finally succeeded, she realized she had made a mistake, jail records state, but by then it was too late.

Kimber, 45, had a bail hearing in Provo's 4th District Court Wednesday. She is being held in the Utah County Jail with no bail. No official charges have been filed against her.

Karen Murray and Catherine Crane were killed Monday night and Jeanette Spahr, 51, was hospitalized following a fire at the Boulders Apartments, 750 S. 650 West. Spahr suffered a broken pelvis and smoke inhalation after being forced to jump from her second-story window to escape the flames.

Crane's granddaughter, Niesha Neil, remembered her Wednesday as "a really great grandma ... She got me into reading books, doing math better, and I just can't believe she's gone."

Her former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Gonzalez, said Crane was an "amazing lady" who "would give her life for somebody."

Gonzalez said she hopes Kimber spends the rest of her life in prison.

At a candlelight vigil held for the victims Thursday night, neighbors called Murray "a wonderful friend."

"She was the kindest person," Pamela Pick said. "She was so generous."

Neighbor Linda Powell said Murray would help her around the house after Powell had surgery. "She'd come and sit with me sometimes for hours to keep me company," she said.

Prior to the fire, Kimber called police threatening to commit suicide, a police affidavit states. Kimber had allegedly been in an argument with her boyfriend prior to the fire.

At 8:59 p.m., Kimber ended a call from her friend. Kimber's friend called Kimber's daughter at 9 p.m. to say "her mother needed help," according to jail records. At 9:04 p.m., the friend called police requesting a welfare check on Kimber. At 9:06 p.m., Kimber reported the fire.

The fire marshal determined "it was not plausible" for the fire to engulf the breezeway and three apartments so quickly, a report states.

An ignitable fluids detection dog detected accelerants near Kimber's door, on the floor next to the love seat she was sitting on prior to the fire, and on Kimber's clothes, police reports state.

Investigators found Kimber in the parking lot of the complex. She told police and fire crews several different stories, including that she fell asleep while smoking and that she dropped her cigarette while sitting on her love seat and couldn't find it, according to an affidavit.

She later admitted to investigators she was trying to pass out with a lit cigarette in her hand so her apartment would catch fire, police say.

"Kimber admitted she had first taken prescription pills, two beers and a lot of marijuana to pass out," a report states. "Kimber woke up with the cigarette fully burned in her hand and noted her attempt failed."

Kimber then lit a basketball schedule on fire and attempted to light the couch on fire, police wrote. When this also failed, she lit the fringes of her throw pillows on fire. When she put her head back to fall asleep, she noticed her arm getting very warm.

"Kimber stated she realized the couch was on fire and she had made a mistake," an affidavit states. "Kimber stated she never meant to hurt anyone but herself. She was very sorry."

Damage to the apartment complex was estimated at $750,000.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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