Former Morton Woman Pleads Guilty to Setting Own House on Fire

By The Chronicle

A former Morton resident accused of burning her house down in 2015 pleaded guilty earlier this month to a charge of first-degree arson.

Kristin H. Skiles, 39, made her first appearance on the charge in Lewis County Superior Court on March 1. 

She entered the guilty plea on May 3, according to court documents. She entered an “Alford Plea,” meaning she does not admit to the crime, but believes she would be convicted based on the evidence.

She is scheduled to be sentenced on July 12.

The standard sentencing range, given her criminal history, is 21 to 27 months in prison with 18 months of probation, according to court documents. 

The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office plans to ask for a sentence of 22 months. 

According to court documents, police and fire crews responded on Dec. 20, 2015, to a house fire in the 200 block of Third Street in Morton.

Arriving first responders found flames coming out of the home’s upstairs window. Skiles reportedly told them she was styling her hair when she accidentally knocked over an ashtray with a lit cigarette. 

The Morton Police Department and fire investigators from the Chehalis Fire Department investigated the incident and in January 2016 deemed the fire suspicious, but listed the official cause as “undetermined,” because they were unable to enter the burned portion of the home due to safety concerns. 

An investigation by a private company on behalf of the homeowner’s insurance concluded the fire must have been started by a “handheld flame,” rather than by a lit cigarette, according to court documents. 

Skiles was sent a summons to appear in court in 2017.

She told the court in March that she has recently been living in a clean and sober home in Yakima and is in outpatient treatment as part of a Lewis County District Court case.