Woman charged in arson attempt

Michelle G. Maurer is accused of trying to burn her estranged husband's house.

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WALLA WALLA -- A woman was formally charged Wednesday afternoon in Superior Court with breaking into the home of her estranged husband and his girlfriend this week, then pouring gasoline on the kitchen floor in an attempt to burn down the residence.

Michelle G. Maurer, 36, is accused of first-degree attempted arson, first-degree burglary and third-degree malicious mischief.

Maurer, of 1563 E. Alder St., remains in the Walla Walla County Jail. Bail has been set at $50,000.

Officials said Maurer forced open a side door at the residence of Rick Maurer and Casey Hamper at 6 Whitman St. on Tuesday afternoon. When the couple arrived home about 2:45 p.m., Michelle Maurer -- with a lighter in her hand -- ran out from the house toward Hamper, punched her in the face and the two started struggling, according to a police report filed in court. Hamper was able to detain Michelle Maurer until police arrived.

A liquid that looked and smelled like gasoline had been poured on the kitchen floor, officials said. Two gas cans were found inside.

In an interview with an officer, Michelle Maurer said, "I'm in trouble," the police report says.

She explained that she and her husband have been going through "a nasty divorce" and she went over to the house to talk to him. She added that no one answered her knock on the front door and she claimed she saw the side door was open.

"She stated she entered the house and noticed a couple of gas cans inside the house. She stated she poured the gasoline on the floor because she wanted them to smell it," the police report says.

However, Rick Maurer told police he had found two gas cans in his garage earlier in the day and they weren't at that location when he arrived home. Also, the frame to the side door was damaged by Michelle Maurer when she forcibly entered the residence, according to the police report.

The house is owned by Mitchell and Sandra Hamper.

The Maurers have been in the midst of divorce proceedings for about two years. In a petition for an order for protection that Rick Maurer filed against his wife last spring, he wrote, "Michelle Maurer came to my house and threatened to burn my house down with lighter fluid and a match" on April 3.

A temporary order was issued, but later was terminated. Wednesday afternoon, Rick Maurer filed a new petition and a temporary order for protection was issued.

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

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