After a woman was kicked out of a Wagga Wagga household for verbally assaulting another, she returned with a lighter and a burning desire for revenge.
Jennifer Louise Hay was jailed for at least six years and 10 months on Monday in NSW District Court after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Kylie Green, 36.
The 49-year-old also pleaded guilty to damaging or burning down the residence at Tichborne Crescent, Kooringal, on February 25, 2019.
Judge Gordon Lerve sentenced Hay to a maximum sentence of 10 years and three months, saying the deceased “would have suffered a horrible death”.
In January 2019, Hay had a “chance meeting” with Jennifer Stroud-Watts, 41, at the Wagga Wagga Reject Shop, according to the facts of the case.
Hay was asked to stay after saying she had nowhere to live, but began verbally assaulting the woman’s foster sister who suffered from physical ailments including asthma and extreme obesity.
“I’m going to put you under the house like a fucking dog like you belong,” Hay told him, clenching his fist and punching him aggressively in his open hand, the court was told.
Hay was then evicted and collected her belongings at 3 p.m. on February 24, 2019.
She later visited a friend and smoked cannabis, saying she was “angry at being asked to leave”.
She returned to her old home around 6 a.m. the next day and while the sisters slept she lit the sofa on the front patio, leaving 10 minutes later.
The fire swept through the front room, the curtains and filled the house with smoke.
Ms Stroud-Watts woke up to the smell of burning rubber, saw flames engulf her house, and knocked on Ms Green’s door.
She eventually crawled out a window as neighbor Darren Stewart attempted to free the woman trapped inside who was also encouraged to leave this way.
She said “I can’t, I can’t” and lay on the floor as the glass shattered around her.
Firefighters arrived and attempted to pull the woman out but were forced to back off by the heat which partially melted the helmet.
Ms Green was pronounced dead after the fire was extinguished, while much of the house was significantly destroyed.
Judge Lerve discovered that Hay had shown remorse in comments to his attending physician.
“I regret what I did, it hurt a good person, it put me here, every day I think about it,” she said.
“I really hurt two innocent people when you think about it, it hits the mark … Hopefully this experience in prison is a bit of a wake-up call.”
There was a great risk of death when Hay “set the sofa on fire in revenge for being kicked off the premises,” Judge Lerve said in his sentencing speech.
Hay understood the woman’s disability and vulnerability after living with her for a while, but his intention was only to set the sofa on fire, not the whole house, the judge said.
Expert reports filed in court revealed that Hay suffered from a complex personality including dramatic and erratic traits and mild bipolar disorder.
In 2009, she was seriously injured in a car accident that killed her partner and suffered from untreated PTSD.
She has a long history of drug and alcohol addiction after being raised by an alcoholic and absent mother, and endured a traumatic and abusive childhood.
The judge was unable to conclude that she had good prospects for rehabilitation and made sure that a long period of parole would supervise her reintegration into society as early as March 2027.
Associated Australian Press