Archive for Tuesday, April 30, 1996


April 30, 1996


Several people were displaced from two apartment triplexes following an alleged arson fire late Monday afternoon.

A Lawrence woman was arrested in connection with aggravated arson after a Monday fire destroyed her apartment and damaged at least two others.

Rhonda Smith, 35, was being held without bond in the Douglas County Jail.

Authorities believe Smith started the fire about 4:45 p.m. Monday in a ground floor apartment at 2011 Riverridge Rd., near North Iowa Street and north of Interstate 70.

The fire destroyed her apartment. Strong winds spread the blaze to an adjacent apartment building.

There were no injuries, although at least two people who were home asleep ran out of their burning or smoke-filled apartments after neighbors banged on their doors.

They were among 12 people living in six apartments in two buildings who were displaced by the fire. Many were put up in local motel rooms Monday night.

Smith and her 2- or 3-year-old child who lives with her were not at home when neighbors called 911. Smith was later found at another location in the city, interviewed by Lawrence police and arrested.

The fire started in triplex building B of the complex, and spread to adjacent triplex A to the north.

Residents Dana Lauvetz and Stacey Woody were shocked when told of the arson arrest.

"We're just distraught over the whole thing," said Lauvetz, a Kansas University student who lives in building A.

"If (firefighters) wouldn't have gotten there when they did, it would have burned the whole building.

"For us, this just shows how our society is so scary," she said. "The things that people do is just beyond comprehension. Our next-door neighbors ... their lives are turned upside down for something that was intentional."

Police had been called to the residence in recent nights in response to domestic disturbances. But it wasn't immediately clear why Smith allegedly started the fire or how.

It took firefighters nearly 30 minutes to put out the fire in both buildings.

Damage was estimated at $98,000.

Jason and Cheri Pride, who live in building C of the complex, saw the fire, called 911 and banged on neighbors' doors telling them to get out.

"By the time we got done calling 911 there were blinds melting and windows breaking," Cheri Pride said.

One of the residents they awakened was Lanette Schmid. Her apartment in building A caught fire with the help of the wind.

"It was scary, very scary," she said.

"If I would have been sound asleep I probably would never have heard them," she said.

Smith was expected to make a first appearance in Douglas County District Court today.

The apartment buildings are owned by Allen Durrant, residents said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.