The Missoula Police Department made an arrest in connection with the Tuesday structure fire on Stoddard Street that left two dogs dead.
Erin Michelle Betts, 23, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of arson and animal cruelty. She made her initial appearance in Missoula County Justice Court on Wednesday.
Betts is charged with three felonies: one count of arson and two counts of aggravated animal cruelty.
According to charging documents, on Tuesday officers responded to a report of a fire on the 900 block of Stoddard Street. While traveling to the house, a responding officer saw a woman running south over the Scott Street Bridge and recognized Betts from previous contacts law enforcement had had with her, charging documents said.
Law enforcement arrived at the scene and recalled Betts’ parents lived in the area and that Betts had been legally prohibited from the property, charging documents said.
Officers saw the house was on fire and spoke with a witness who gave a description of seeing someone running from the Stoddard Street house after hearing an explosion.
Additional officers were dispatched to search for Betts, according to charging documents. They located her at the Poverello Center, and noticed she smelled of gasoline.
When officers spoke with Betts, she told them she had been at the Poverello Center for about 15 minutes, and “had been on the Northside,” and she had “seen a whole bunch of smoke and started to run,” charging documents said. Officers noted her hair had been singed, and arrested Betts and transported her for further questioning.
While interviewing Betts, detectives observed her eyebrows were completely missing and eyelashes were curled stubs, which they believed to be from heat exposure, charging documents said.
When questioned, Betts confirmed she had been near the railroad tracks and Scott Street Bridge when she saw the smoke. She stated that she ran from the smoke to avoid getting in trouble since she was the only one in the area at the time of the fire and could be considered a person of interest, charging documents said.
Betts was booked into the Missoula County Detention Facility at about 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Bail was set at $100,000.