A woman who started a house fire at a Northside Missoula residence last year was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Erin M. Betts, 24, pleaded guilty to one count of felony arson in June, according to court documents.
For the arson charge, Betts was sentenced last Friday to 20 years in the Montana State Women’s Prison, with half of that time suspended. She was also ordered by Missoula District Judge Shane Vannatta to pay $500,000 in restitution.
Court documents allege Betts started a house fire in May 2021 that caused the whole structure to be lost and killed two dogs. The estimated property damage was $450,000.
While traveling to the house, a responding officer saw a woman running south over the Scott Street Bridge and recognized her as Betts from previous contacts law enforcement had with her, Missoula County charging documents said.
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After speaking with witnesses, officers located Betts at the Poverello Center. They noticed she smelled of gasoline and that her hair had been singed.
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 because 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 had two additional cases pending in district court, both of which she received a 10-year sentence for; they will run simultaneously to Betts’ sentence for the house fire.
She was originally charged with two counts of aggravated animal cruelty in addition to the arson charge, but both were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.