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Woman charged with arson in May 3 fire in La Crosse

A 23-year-old La Crosse woman has been charged in a May 3 fire that damaged a house in La Crosse.

Brianna Mae Lawrence was charged Tuesday in La Crosse County Circuit Court with felony counts of arson of a building without the owner’s consent, arson to property other than a building, criminal damage to property and three counts of second-degree recklessly endangering safety.

La Crosse firefighters responded shortly after noon to a report of a basement fire at 1917 Prospect St. and found heavy smoke coming from the basement. Nobody was injured in the fire, but the structure sustained an estimated $70,000-$80,000 worth of smoke and water damage.

According to the criminal complaint, investigators used surveillance footage to determine that Lawrence exited the basement of the structure through an egress window around 11:45 a.m. She walked around the block and returned within five minutes. The video reportedly shows Lawrence standing next to a man attempting to extinguish the fire. Neither person was present when firefighters arrived a short time later.

Police interviewed Lawrence later that day. The complaint says she told police she had left for an appointment before realizing she had forgotten something. She told investigators she noticed the fire as she returned home.

Lawrence reportedly told investigators the residence had problems with the furnace and electrical system, but investigators found no evidence that either had malfunctioned. They determined that the blaze originated in a basement bedroom, where Lawrence allegedly set a mattress on fire.

The complaint says police interviewed a witness who saw Lawrence set fire to a living room curtain a week earlier. Investigators reportedly found the curtain with burned ends.

Judge Elliott Levine released Lawrence on a $5,000 signature bond with a condition of bond monitoring. A preliminary hearing was set for July 8.

La Crosse Tribune reporter Steve Rundio can be reached at steve.rundio@lee.net.

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