Arson charge dropped against woman in fatal St. George fire

Published: Thursday, March 6 2014 8:58 p.m. MST

City of St. George.

Matt Gade, Deseret News Archives

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HURRICANE, Washington County — The case against a woman charged with intentionally setting a fire that killed her boyfriend has been dropped.

Stacy Barnard, 43, was charged with aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, for the Jan. 1 fire at a Hurricane trailer, 237 W. State, that killed David Wayne Vere Nielson who was trapped inside.

Barnard had told investigators she was burning candles when the rest of the trailer accidentally caught fire. But investigators said there were two separate ignition points for the fire and a K9 from the Utah State Fire Marshall's Office detected an accelerant on Barnard's hands and on two different spots in the trailer, according to court records.

"Stacy's statement of where the fire started was not consistent with what was located at the scene," prosecutors wrote in charging documents.

During a preliminary hearing on Monday in 5th District Court in St. George, however, Barnard's defense attorney, Jay Winward, revealed that the samples sent to the state crime lab turned up negative for the presence of accelerants. Because of that, the defense moved to dismiss the case and the state did not object, according to court records.

Winward declined to discuss any other aspect of the case or what might have happened, only saying that his client has maintained her innocence from the start and is very happy with the decision to drop the charge.

Both Barnard and Neilson had been drinking during the hours prior to the fire and police later administered a portable breath test to her, according to investigators. But neither court records nor Winward indicated what her blood-alcohol level was.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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