2007-01-11 / Front Page

Arson suspect extradited to face felony charges

By Donna K. Drago

Lisa Clay, the woman who allegedly set the Jan. 5, 2005 fire that destroyed a house on Coulter Street, is back in custody in Rhode Island after having fled the state before her trial, which had been scheduled for Oct. 23, 2006.

Mike Healey of the attorney general's office said that Clay was picked up by the Lee County Sheriff's department in Ft. Myers, Fla., on Nov. 30, 2006 and arraigned on a charge of being a fugitive from justice there. Clay, 37, was extradited to Rhode Island on Dec. 26, Healey said.

She is being held without bail at the Adult Correctional Institutions, he added.

In December 2005, Clay was indicted on six felony and two misdemeanor charges stemming from the night of the fire. There is also a charge of first degree arson, for setting the fire, a charge of felony assault, for assaulting the owner of the house that was allegedly torched, a charge of fifth degree arson for attempting to set another fire at the home of her estranged boyfriend.

In addition, there are three charges for drug possession, Healey said. The misdemeanors include vandalism and simple assault, he said.

On the night of the fire, Clay allegedly had a falling out with her boyfriend, who lived on Stern Street. She allegedly started the evening by vandalizing that house and pouring a flammable substance around the house. During an argument with the boyfriend and another man, Clay seriously bit the other man, who was taken to Newport Hospital by ambulance, according to police.

When the ambulance was returning from the hospital around midnight, personnel spotted the fire along the island's coast, just north of the Newport Bridge. In addition to the complete destruction of the house at 23 Coulter St., which was owned by the man Clay allegedly bit, the house next door was also seriously damaged.

It took fire apparatus from seven communities to battle the blaze.

Clay is scheduled for a determination of attorney hearing on Jan. 12, Healey said, noting that she will face a bail hearing a couple of weeks later.

Arson is a capital offense and could result in a life sentence, which, in Rhode Island, is a mandatory 20 years, Healey said.

Return to top