Springdale woman convicted of starting apartment blaze, given no punishment

Posted: October 25, 2017 at 1 a.m.

Rhonda Barron

FAYETTEVILLE -- A Springdale woman was found guilty of reckless burning Tuesday but given no punishment for starting a fire that heavily damaged an apartment complex in January.

Rhonda Faith Barron, 49, was charged with arson in Washington County Circuit Court. The jury opted to convict on the lesser included charge of reckless burning, which is a felony.

The jury was asked to make a sentencing recommendation. The sentencing form shows the jury recommended no sentence and no fine but strongly encouraged counseling for Barron.

Barron had been facing 10 to 40 years or life in prison on the arson charge.

Barron admitted she started the fire the evening of Jan. 10 at the Station Apartments at 3078 Boxcar St.

Barron told jurors she and her boyfriend argued, he choked her until she was unconscious then left with Barron's paycheck, cell phone, driver's license and Social Security card.

Barron told jurors she was angry and disgusted.

To get even, Barron said she put her boyfriend's clothes in a plastic trash can, put that in the bathtub and lit the clothes on fire with a match.

"I wanted him to feel sorry," Barron said. "I wanted him to feel regretful that he'd done this to me again."

A friend, Jason Reichard, told jurors he was at the apartment earlier in the day and saw the boyfriend slap Barron. Barron told police she ran into a wall and injured her face because she didn't want her boyfriend to get in trouble, she told jurors.

Defense attorneys argued Barron intended to burn the clothes but didn't intend to damage the apartment complex. Barron wasn't ordered to pay restitution for the damage.

"Rhonda was a victim of domestic violence. The only purpose she had was to burn her boyfriend's clothes," said Matt Bender of the Washington County Public Defender's Office.

Barron said several minutes after lighting the clothes on fire, she heard a pop, opened the bathroom door and was met with dense smoke that quickly filled the apartment. Barron said she threw water on the fire but could not put it out. She left the apartment to tell other residents to call the fire department.

Two neighbors used fire extinguishers but were driven out by the smoke and fumes. Both were treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire burned through the ceiling of the bathroom and spread to the attic of the two-story building before firefighters arrived and put it out.

The fire caused more than $325,000 damage to the apartment building, according to Lindsey Management officials. The entire roof was replaced and tenants of the 12-unit building were moved for several months while the damage was repaired.

NW News on 10/25/2017