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‘You Are Evil’: Iowa Arsonist Gets Life Sentence for Killing Woman and Boy over Relationship Spat

Booking photo of Denise Susanna O'Brien

Denise Susanna O’Brien.

When Iowa defendant Denise Susanna O’Brien set fire to a Waterloo home back in 2018, she was lashing out at her boyfriend for staying with another woman, but she ended up killing an innocent mother and son who didn’t even have anything to do with the spat. Now she is set to spend the rest of her days in prison.

Judge Joel Dalrymple had O’Brien’s two life sentences run consecutively because the 45-year-old killed both Ashley Smith, 32, and Jaykwon Sallis, 9, according to The Waterloo-Cedar Fall Courier.

Jurors convicted O’Brien last November. Prosecutors said three people, including Smith’s daughter, fled the fire. Investigators said O’Brien had told another person before the fire that she should go to that home and kill everyone. Authorities said surveillance footage placed O’Brien in the area.

Dalrymple said at the sentencing on Monday that there was evidence O’Brien knew there were other people, including children, at Smith’s home, but nonetheless set fires at the front and back doors in attempt to trap everyone inside. The judge acknowledged that, in this version of events, the boyfriend beat up O’Brien earlier that night when she initially showed up at the residence. But O’Brien still had enough time to cool down before the murders, the judge suggested.

Defense lawyer Wendy Samuelson reportedly maintained her client’s innocence, but Smith’s mother and Sallis’s grandmother Shelia Craft minced no words for O’Brien in a victim impact statement.

“You are evil,” she said. “You killed two beautiful souls over a guy who obviously didn’t want you. … You spoke of luck and karma. Well, I truly hope it gets you. You don’t show any remorse for what you did. You took everything. A piece of my heart is gone forever.”

[Screenshot via KGAN]

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