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HAMILTON - A Hamilton woman convicted of setting fire to her home was sentenced Wednesday to five years in the custody of the state Department of Corrections.

Denise Hammer, who also uses the last name of Olsen, was also sentenced to another five years on probation for setting the October 2001 fire at her home at 301 N. Seventh St.

Hammer's attorney, Larry Mansch, asked District Judge Jeff Langton to sentence her to probation only, but Deputy Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright asked the judge for a Department of Corrections commitment.

Langton sided with Fulbright, noting that Hammer's actions had endangered firefighters and surrounding homes.

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Hammer maintained her innocence at trial and still claims she did not set the fire that destroyed the home.

Hammer was convicted by a jury in early March, but not before a trial that featured a host of experts, each with a theory on how the fire started. In fact, two prosecution experts had different opinions on the fire's ignition points, but their testimony overcame a defense expert's claim that the fire started with an electrical short. The state claimed the fire was started with candles.

Hammer, 39, had received the home in August 2001 in a settlement with her ex-husband, and Fulbright argued that Hammer's financial woes led to the fire. Now she has even more money problems. Langton ordered her to pay more than $2,500 in firefighting costs in addition to the still-undetermined costs of the trial.

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