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Investigator: Woman confesses to some fires at LR complex

Agent says suspect acknowledges 'probably' setting other fires

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published February 12, 2014 at 9:31 a.m. Updated February 12, 2014 at 3:12 p.m.

crews-battle-a-fire-at-forest-place-apartments-the-morning-of-may-16-2013

Crews battle a fire at Forest Place Apartments the morning of May 16, 2013.

Lacey Moore of Little Rock

3:12 P.M. UPDATE:

The woman accused of setting a series of fires at a Little Rock apartment complex admitted to setting some of them and said she "probably" started others, an investigator told a judge during a detention hearing Wednesday.

Special Agent David Oliver, an arson investigator with the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives, said Lacey Rae Moore, 43, agreed in writing to waive her Miranda rights and signed a statement confessing to multiple fires in one building of Forest Place Apartments.

"On the others, she said she didn't remember but said she probably started them," Oliver said. "She said she was under the influence of drugs at the time."

Oliver added Moore indicated she felt stressed at the times of the fires and that setting them provided relief as she was taking "all kinds of pills."

A judge ultimately didn't grant Moore's release pending trial, ordering her instead to undergo a mental evaluation in a secure facility.

During his time on the stand, Oliver also said Moore had just broken up with a boyfriend before the first fires were set and was "angry at different things in her life." And, he said, she had been accused by the apartment complex of stealing a plant from the hallway, resulting in police going to her apartment and questioning her in front of her children.

"Through the text messages I saw, she was very angry" about that, Oliver said.

Oliver said Moore was developed as a suspect because of her proximity to the Forest Place fires — each was started near her unit or outside one where she once lived — and because of extensive social media postings she made on Facebook about them, including some posts where she said the arsonist wouldn't be caught.

Moore is accused of starting seven fires at the apartment complex, including one that caused millions in damage and resulted in 79 people being permanently displaced. The two she acknowledged setting at Forest Place came after the large fire there, Oliver testified.

Oliver said he spoke to displaced residents who said that fire was "the most terrifying thing they've ever lived through."

Also Wednesday, Moore's ex-husband took the stand and asked the judge not to grant her release because she has repeatedly attempted suicide and is a "real and present risk to herself" with the case hanging over her.

"I would say she's facing more stress than she's ever faced in her life and it would be impossible for her to bear," John Moore said.

Magistrate Judge Beth Deere ultimately ordered the mental evaluation at a Bureau of Prisons site, saying it needed to be a secure facility because Moore "presents a clear and convincing danger to the community."

The evaluation will help determine if Moore is competent to assist her lawyers and whether she was legally competent during the alleged crimes. Deere said.

For more on this story, see Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

EARLIER:

A judge is expected Wednesday to consider whether to release a Little Rock woman pending trial after she was indicted in connection with a series of arsons at an apartment complex where she once lived.

Lacey Rae Moore, 43, is accused of setting seven fires between February and June 2013 at Forest Place Apartments, causing millions in damage, displacing dozens of residents and injuring two firefighters.

Moore, a former resident at the complex, was also the lead and only named plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed over the fires, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Tuesday.

Authorities announced Monday that Moore had been arrested after being indicted on five federal counts of arson, two counts of arson resulting in injury and one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device. She was booked into the Pulaski County jail and remained there Wednesday pending the 11 a.m. hearing in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Beth Deere.

One of the fires, a May 16 blaze at Forest Place, caused an estimated $4 million in damage, permanently displacing nearly 80 residents. A June 28 fire forced dozens to evacuate and resulted in 11 residents being permanently displaced, authorities said.

Authorities say Moore faces up to 20 years in prison on each arson count.

A March 11 trial date for Moore was set after he first appearance in court Monday, though preliminary trial dates are often delayed.

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