Woman guilty of killing 2 for setting fire to house in 2018

December 1, 2021 GMT

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — A jury convicted a woman of two counts of first-degree murder for the 2018 arson deaths of another woman and her 9-year-old son.

Denise Susanna O’Brien, 45, was convicted Tuesday in the deaths of 32-year-old Ashley Smith and her son, 9-year-old Jaykwon Sallis, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported. The charges stemmed from an April 22, 2018, house fire that prosecutors say O’Brien started on the home’s back steps because she was angry that her boyfriend had spent the night with another woman in the house.

At the time of the fire, O’Brien was subject to a restraining order that banned her from going to the house.

During the trial, prosecutors showed surveillance video they say showed O’Brien a few blocks from the home as firetrucks headed toward the burning house. Prosecutors also showed texts from O’Brien to her boyfriend shortly before the fire was reported that said, “Karma comin 4 u … i hope it hurts.”

Three others escaped the fire, including Jaykwon’s then 12-year-old sister.

O’Brien faces a mandatory term of life in prison when she’s sentenced at a later date.