West Jordan woman set house ablaze 'to get attention,' charges state

Published: Friday, June 20 2014 11:55 p.m. MDT

Updated: Saturday, June 21 2014 9:54 a.m. MDT

WEST JORDAN — A West Jordan woman was charged Friday with setting her mother's house on fire while eight other people, including a child, were inside.

Celee Flanigan Riches, 50, was charged in 3rd District Court with aggravated arson, a first-degree felony.

The fire started June 15 in Riches' upstairs bedroom at 1625 W. 8740 South. Homeowner Sharon Shank, Riches' mother, was in the process of evicting everyone in the home so she could sell it, according to charging documents.

Madison Varian, Riches' daughter, told police that her mother had previously threatened to burn the house down before she would ever be evicted, the charges state.

Riches told police that she had fallen asleep in bed with a cigarette, which started her bed on fire. But according to the charges, Riches told her neighbor, Lori Dobecki, a different story while firefighters were fighting the blaze.

"(Riches) admitted to Ms. Dobecki that she intentionally lit the sheets to the bed on fire to get attention," charging documents state.

Riches' younger sister, April Jackson, told the Deseret News Monday that the family was preparing a Father's Day breakfast when the fire began. "She just sat there on the bed," Jackson said of her sister. "Her husband had to literally go in and grab her through the smoke and physically take her out of the house."

All nine residents in the home safely escaped. Riches, however, suffered minor second-degree burns on her left hand, according to firefighters.

Investigators verified that the fire started on the bed. All electrical plugs in the room were intact, the lamps were untouched by the fire, and no breakers had been tripped, the charges state.

Email: mcollette@deseretnews.com, Twitter: MirandaCollette

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