Walla Walla man pleads guilty to drug charge linked to deadly fire

Jared Allen faces about nine years in prison after his guilty plea this morning.

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WALLA WALLA -- A man pleaded guilty this morning in Superior Court to manufacturing methamphetamine, which started a fire in a recreational vehicle that killed three women -- including his daughter -- in February 2009.

Jared F. Allen, 42, of 309 N. Sixth Ave., faces a standard-range prison term of eight years and four months to 10 years when he's sentenced later.

Under terms of a plea agreement, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Gabriel Acosta is recommending nine years and two months.

Allen also had been charged with an additional count of manufacturing meth, plus one count each of possessing pseudoephedrine with intent to manufacture meth and unlawful storage of anhydrous ammonia stemming from the discovery of items in a Melrose Street storage unit linked to Allen. But those charges will be dismissed in exchange for his guilty plea.

Allen read the following statement at this morning's hearing: "I do not believe I am guilty of this offense and in fact I believe I was asleep in the back of the RV when the methamphetamine was being made, but in order to take advantage of the prosecutor's plea offer I enter a plea of guilty."

Acosta had filed notice to seek an exceptionally long sentence for Allen if he was convicted at a trial, partly because of his lengthy criminal history. Acosta said in an interview he would have asked for at least double the standard-range sentence.

But Acosta added that such a sentence wouldn't have been assured. Also, under state sentencing laws, convictions on the charges he agreed to drop would not have increased the standard-range penalty Allen will receive after pleading guilty this morning to the one charge of meth manufacturing.

Allen was arrested last July on a warrant issued when the charge was filed. Officials said Allen was cooking meth in the RV on Woodlawn Street the evening of Feb. 25, 2009. A chemical fire flashed during the process, killing three women inside.

Allen escaped by climbing through a rear window, but wasn't able to re-enter to reach the other occupants.

Dead at the scene were his daughter, Shanda Lee Allen, 19; Jesse Christine Thompson, 30; and Tri-Cities resident Annabel Nicole Bautista, 20. Thompson was the stepgrandaughter of Donald Wood, the owner of the RV and of adjacent property at 1001 Woodlawn.

Autopsies revealed one of the women died from inability to breathe and the others, from inhaling carbon monoxide.

Allen cannot be held criminally responsible for their deaths because officials believe at least two and possibly all three of the women were actively involved in processing chemicals at the time. The Washington State Supreme Court previously ruled that a person involved in criminal activity cannot be prosecuted for the death of another person if that person also was participating in the criminal activity.

Allen has had a series of drug convictions dating to 1994 and was convicted in 2002 of possessing pseudoephedrine with the intent to manufacture meth.

He was released from the Clallam Bay Corrections Center on Dec. 8, 2008, and was under community supervision in Vancouver when the fatal fire occurred.

Allen's attorney, Jim Barrett, said during a previous court appearance that Allen suffered from post-traumatic stress and "a lot of other things." But personnel from Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake determined Allen is competent to stand trial.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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