Estranged Ex Arrested for Vehicle Arson in Utah

The estranged ex of a Kearns, Utah resident was arrested for vehicle arson after going to her ex-boyfriend’s house and lighting two vehicles on fire.

Late-night bonfire

Photo by: Michael Pardo

The residents of a Kearns household awakened Thursday to find two of their vehicles and part of the garage on fire. An accelerant, most likely gasoline, had been poured onto a vehicle in the driveway and another on the street before being lit on fire. Both vehicles suffered several thousand dollars in damage and the garage near one vehicle suffered severe damage as well. Multiple neighbors turned in camera footage where a female was seen committing the vehicle arson before getting into her own car and taking off.

The one that got away

The camera footage collected from neighbors showed 27 year old Jessica Halee Wright, the ex-girlfriend to one of the residents of the home, as the sole suspect in the vehicle arson case. No reasoning was given as to why she set the cars on fire. Since both vehicles were not occupied at the time of the torching, she more than likely didn’t mean to cause any physical harm to anyone. She possibly started the fires out of anger toward her ex or his family who also occupied the home. It isn’t know how long ago the relationship with Wright and the resident ended, but one can assume they were not on good terms.

Photo by: Kate Ter Haar

Vehicle arson

Wright was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for arson. The charges for arson depend on the monetary value of the item burned and whether or not the property was a residence or an occupied vehicle or outbuilding. Since no one was inside the vehicles when Wright lit them on fire, and she will be facing arson and not aggravated arson charges. According to Utah Code 76-6-102, “A person is guilty of arson if . . . the person by means of fire or explosives unlawfully and intentionally damages . . . the property of another.” Since the damage to the vehicles and garage were greater than $5,000, Wright is facing second degree charges for vehicle arson.

Counselor before an attorney

Anyone facing a nasty breakup is encouraged to seek counseling to work through anger or betrayal issues before letting their issues turn into hostility and criminal activity. Those already facing trouble for their erroneous way of handling a soured relationship should seek legal counsel from a trusted attorney.

Man Tired of Being Single – Makes Terrorist Threats While Visiting Utah

A Colorado man visiting Utah was tired of being single and used social media to make terrorist threats against girls.

Loveless and lawless

Terrorist threats

Photo by: Pietro Zanarini

27 year old Christopher Wayne Cleary of Denver, Colorado was visiting Provo, Utah when he posted on Facebook his woes regarding his lack of a romantic life. In the midst of his personal oversharing, he also made terrorist threats against girls by threatening to cause a mass shooting and kill “as many girls as I see.” Alert members of the online community contacted Denver police who then tracked Cleary down to his location in Provo. Officers in police were able to apprehend Cleary peacefully where he was then questioned before being booked into the Utah County jail for making the terrorist threats.

Making terrorist threats

Cleary is facing charges of a probation violation as well as felony charges for making terrorist threats. Utah Code 76-5-107.3 states “A person commits [terrorist threats] if the person threatens to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, and:

• Threatens the use of a weapon of mass destruction . . . ; or
• Threatens the use of a hoax weapon of mass destruction . . . ; [both second degree felonies] or
• Acts with intent to:
o Intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence or affect the conduct of a government or a unit of government [a second degree felony];
o Prevent or interrupt the occupation of a building or a portion of the building, a place to which the public has access, or a facility or vehicle of public transportation operated by a common carrier [a third degree felony] ; or
o Cause an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies to take action due to the person’s conduct posing a serious and substantial risk to the general public [a class B misdemeanor].”

That section goes on to note that “A threat under this section may be express[ed] or implied.”

Social media oversharing

Law enforcement officers did not report finding any weapons on Cleary and when they found him he was merely sitting at a McDonalds, not taking actions to carry out his threat. Cleary was compliant with police and when asked, he didn’t deny making the terrorist threats. According to Cleary, he posted the threat on Facebook when he was distraught and quickly took it down following the backlash from other Facebook users. While it may be seen as awkward and even inappropriate, many social media users use their posting rights to “vent” when they are upset. Some may overshare by openly saying what is on their mind. Others might participate in “Vague-booking” or posting vague comments to get the attention of someone specific or anyone who will ask follow-up questions. However they go about it, often these “venting” posts are taking down once the person has calmed down and realized they have probably posted a little bit too much personal information for every single one of the Facebook friends to see.

Crossing the criminal line

While the awkward venting posts may not result in much more than embarrassment, using the social media resource to threaten harm on a single individual or a group of people can quickly lead to criminal charges even if the person never had any intention of carrying out their threat. Utah Code 76-5-107.3 defined above warns that “it is not a defense . . . that the person did not attempt to carry out or was incapable of carrying out the threat.” Anyone using their accounts for venting are warned to always keep their posts within legal boundaries. Those facing criminal charges for comments or posts they made to any social media accounts including terrorist threats are encouraged to immediately seek legal counsel from a reputable attorney.

Domestic Violence Victim Charged With Felony Child Abuse For Not Protecting Infant

A Utah mother who is a victim of domestic violence was charged with felony child abuse after authorities stated she did not protect her infant from harm.

Abuse of an infant

Photo by: Alyssa L. Miller

21 year old Daniel Mercer and 30 year old Whittney Huber were arrested when a Utah hospital alerted authorities after discovering signs of child abuse on the couple’s three month old baby daughter. The young infant suffered burns on her hand, broken bones, as well as bleeding on the brain. She is currently recovering at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. Mercer was arrested for multiple charges including drug possession, domestic violence, and felony child abuse for causing serious injuries to the infant. Huber was also arrested for felony child abuse for not protecting her daughter from Mercer.

Failure to protect a child

Although some criminal events cannot be foreseen, it is likely that Huber knew her daughter was not safe around Mercer. Prior to the infant’s serious injuries, police were dispatched to the couple’s apartment on calls of domestic violence. Although the baby showed no signs of abuse during those calls, the mother later stated that threats had been made toward the child’s safety. Disregarding officer’s instructions to keep Mercer out of the home, Huber allowed him the re-enter, and thereby permitted the abuse to continue to her as well as her baby.

Felony child abuse

Authorities indicated that in years past, Huber had been the victim of domestic violence and has already had older children removed from her care. Now the state has been awarded temporary custody of the infant daughter while the mother faces criminal charges. Utah Code 76-5-109 (2) it states “Any person who inflicts upon a child serious physical injury or, having the care or custody of such child, causes or permits another to inflict serious physical injury upon a child is guilty of an offense as follows:

(a) If done intentionally or knowingly, the offense is a felony of the second degree;
(b) If done recklessly, the offense is a felony of the third degree; or
(c) If done with criminal negligence, the offense is a class A misdemeanor.”

Regardless of herself being a victim, Huber was responsible for the child’s safety and by not protecting the baby from abuse, Huber is being charged with permitting the child abuse to occur.

Domestic violence

Photo by: Scary Side of Earth

Sadly many individuals are in situations of domestic violence and even more devastating are the numerous homes in which children are present to witness the abuse. Although not all domestic violence situations put the children in immediate physical harm, the emotional trauma from witnessing violent events can have long-lasting ill effects. According to Utah’s Cohabitant Abuse Procedures Act, many domestic offenses that children could be victims or witnesses to are:

• Aggravated assault;
• Assault;
• Criminal homicide;
• Harassment;
• Electronic communication harassment;
• Kidnapping;
• Mayhem;
• Sexual offenses;
• Stalking;
• Unlawful detention;
• Violation of a protective order;
• Any offense against property;
• Possession of a deadly weapon with criminal intent;
• Discharge of a firearm from a vehicle, near a highway, or in the direction of any person, building, or vehicle;
• Disorderly conduct;
• Child abuse;
• Threatening use of a dangerous weapon;
• Threatening violence;
• Tampering with a witness;
• Retaliation against a witness or victim;
• Unlawful distribution of an intimate image;
• Sexual battery;
• Voyeurism;
• Damage to or interruption of a communication device.

While many of these domestic violence offenses may not appear to directly involve the children in the home, children hear and see more than many realize. With the prevalence of domestic violence, it is imperative that anyone facing such situations reaches out for help for themselves and their children. Anyone needing help from domestic violence is encouraged to call the Utah Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-897-LINK or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Anyone facing charges related to their staying in a domestic violence situation should seek qualified legal counsel.