A woman stands accused of arson more than three years after neighbors rescued two children from an apartment fire in the south Las Vegas Valley, according to an arrest warrant.
An investigation into the Aug. 26, 2015, fire led to the Jan. 4 arrest of Melissa Ashley Jones, 31. Prosecutors charged her on Oct. 31 with first-degree arson, court records show.
Clark County firefighters were alerted of the apartment fire at 10250 Spencer St., near St. Rose Parkway, on the night of the fire.
Neighbors heard children crying and a smoke detector alarm, but it took “pounding on the door and yelling” for Jones to open it, the warrant said.
Jones was nude when she answered the door, and a little girl, whose age wasn’t clear, was crying on the other side of the living room, the warrant said. An 11-month-old boy was found sitting in an empty bathtub with the surrounding bathroom floor flooded. He was wearing a shirt but was lathered in soap, the report said.
“The suspect Melissa Ashley Jones ran naked from the scene leaving her children without proper adult supervision,” the warrant said. The neighbors, who are unnamed in the warrant, rescued the children and tried to put out the fire.
It was unclear why charges weren’t filed until more than three years after the fire. Requests for clarification from the Clark County Fire Department and the Clark County district attorney’s office were not immediately returned.
Jones’ public defender, Katrina Ross, said she wasn’t sure about the cause of the delay.
“I know that this was a surprise to her,” Ross said.
Jones pleaded not guilty, said Ross, who declined to discuss specifics of the case.
The warrant accuses Jones of making an “incendiary device” by affixing a cigarette to a roll of clear packing tape and angling it to touch the ground, the warrant said. “The lit end was touching the carpet but appeared to have self-extinguished. This appeared to have been an attempt to make an incendiary device,” the warrant said. The roll was found on the carpet.
Jones had knocked on a neighbor’s door to ask for a cigarette about five minutes before the fire was discovered, the warrant said.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives later determined fingerprints discovered on the roll belonged to Jones, according to the warrant.
Jones made “numerous and conflicting statements as to how the fire occurred,” the warrant said.
“These statements, while in conflict with each other, further defy known understanding of fire dynamics and how a fire can begin and grow,” the warrant continued.
An investigation indicates the fire appeared to originate in the carpet at the center of the living room. It damaged an ottoman, a blanket, an entertainment center and a stretch of carpet and subfloor area, the warrant said.
“The fire was between both children and the apartment’s only entry/exit door, which would have precluded an easy access for the children if they were even able to understand how to properly exit a structure that was on fire,” the warrant said.
Jones was booked into the Clark County Detention Center but has been released on her own recognizance.
She has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. 25, court records show.
“We’re looking forward to having our day in court,” Ross said.
Contact Mike Shoro at email@example.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.