Bond lowered in case of Lawrence woman accused of setting family’s home on fire; attorney says she was framed

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Three people were displaced from this home after an early-morning fire Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, at 2200 Harper St.

A Douglas County judge on Tuesday lowered the bond of a woman who is accused of burning down a Lawrence family’s residence in February.

Judge Amy Hanley, presiding over the case of Judith Gomez Siles, 44, noted that “this is a very serious crime,” but said that a bond amount of $60,000 cash or surety — instead of $200,000 — was “more in line” for this type of case with a defendant who has no criminal history.

Gomez Siles’ attorney, Gary West, had asked the court for an own-recognizance bond (meaning she would not have to put up any money) with maximum monitoring, which is what he said Pretrial Services had recommended. West said that his client has a place to live in Lawrence, has two teen children to care for and is not a flight risk.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Deiter, however, opposed the motion, arguing that Gomez Siles, whom he described as “not a permanent U.S. resident,” is a flight risk, after having allegedly expressed an intention to go to Chicago or to Mexico. He also argued that she posed a risk to public safety and alleged that she had enlisted minors to destroy evidence in the case, namely a tablet computer. Additionally, he said that the state planned to amend the complaint to accuse Gomez Siles in two other fires in October and December of last year.

Deiter said that the state wanted the bond to remain at $200,000, but when Hanley asked him why the bond was that amount in the first place, he said that another judge had set it at that amount and that the state had requested only a $60,000 bond to begin with — which is the amount Hanley eventually settled upon Tuesday.

Hanley noted that two of the three victims in the alleged arson were not present Tuesday to weigh in on the bond modification.

As the Journal-World reported, on Feb. 26, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical units were called to a fire at an occupied mobile home at 2200 Harper St. Crews reported a fire in the home that was extending to a neighboring structure. All occupants were safely evacuated, including a pet cat. Firefighters were able to limit impact to neighboring structures, but damage to the home was estimated at $36,000 for both structural damage and content loss.

LDCFM investigators have concluded that the fire was intentionally set. Gomez Siles was arrested on April 25.

Hanley set an all-day hearing in the case for June 7, when she will also consider an immunity claim of self-defense for Gomez Siles, who, in addition to the aggravated arson charge, faces a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery. In that case, she is accused of battering the man who is also listed as a victim in the arson case along with his significant other and a child.

That man has himself been convicted of violating a protection from abuse order regarding Gomez Siles, and on Tuesday he expressed the desire that Gomez Siles be given an own-recognizance bond so that she could take care of her children, which the state opposed.

In a motion requesting that the arrest affidavit in the arson case be sealed, defense attorney West argued that his client did not set the fire but had been framed.

“Ms. Gomez Siles did not set this fire,” West wrote in the motion, “but rather someone is attempting to make it look like (she) set this fire.”

He also denied that she had confessed to the crime, as the arrest affidavit had claimed.

The affidavit, which the prosecutor also wanted sealed, was released by the court but with numerous redactions.

One section of the affidavit describes a police interview with Gomez Siles with a narrative about how a device was used to create a spark that caused a pile of leaves to catch fire, which then got “out of control.” The person who started the fire (names are redacted in the affidavit) said it was meant only to get the attention of someone in the residence. The person did not then call 911, but left the area, according to the affidavit.

As of Tuesday evening, Gomez Siles remained in custody.


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