weather icon Mostly Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Woman who died in fire championed ‘Noah’s Law’

She was 16 when a man in a ski mask broke into her Idaho home and pummelled her stomach, hips and back.

She was eight months pregnant. She gave birth to a stillborn boy hours later.

Her attacker could only face a misdemeanor charge under Idaho law, so the teen successfully campaigned the Idaho Legislature to stiffen the penalties for people who unlawfully kill fetuses.

Eight years after the governor signed the bill into law, 25-year-old Lisa Janea Smith was found dead near the front door inside her northwest Las Vegas Valley home Monday afternoon. Investigators believe she was fleeing flames and smoke in her bedroom but was overcome before she could escape.

Authorities have not officially determined the cause of the fire, which started in the master bedroom, but they did not rule out an accident caused by smoking.

Lisa Smith’s grandmother, Donna Hoagland, said Friday that theory was possible, that her granddaughter smoked and also suffered from seizures caused by a brain tumor. Surgery was scheduled for January.

Smith grew up in the Idaho towns of Melba and Nampa, not far from Boise, where she loved caring for children and the elderly, Hoagland said.

After the attack, the teen felt she had to do something to change the law. She made headlines in Idaho and testified before a state Senate committee. “Noah’s Law,” as the bill was named after her fetus became known, afforded a fetus the same protection as a person under Idaho laws for state murder, manslaughter and aggravated battery laws.

Smith and her family were proud of the accomplishment.

“It’s something that very well needed to be done, because that was a living baby,” Hoagland said. “I don’t care if it hadn’t been born yet. It was still a person. And we’re all very proud that she had the guts, you might say, to pursue this.”

Smith moved to Las Vegas about six years ago to pursue work in real estate, Hoagland said.

Smith is survived by her 3-year-old daughter, who wasn’t home at the time of the fire, her mother, her grandmother and other relatives in Idaho. Services will be held Tuesday in Melba, Idaho.

Hoagland described her granddaughter as a friendly woman who loved her family.

“She liked to be out here on the farm and with the animals and loved my garden and my flowers and being with family,” Hoagland said.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.