Woman arraigned for murder, arson

Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2001

The trial of a young woman accused of killing her mother in a house fire is slated to begin the first week of October.

Rebecca Richel, 19 on the day of arraignment Wednesday, faces charges of second-degree murder and first-degree arson. With judge Harold Brown presiding in Kenai court, bail was set at $100,000 cash with third-party custody. Her attorney, Joe Montague, entered a plea of not guilty.

Dorothy Richel, Rebecca's mother, died of smoke inhalation in a fire that burned her home in September 1999.

The events on the night of Sept. 10, 1999, at the Eddy Hill Road home, led to the charges. Official reports at the time state Rebecca Richel went to a neighbor's house before dawn and said she was awakened by a smoke detector. The neighbors called 911 at 4:40 a.m.

Fire crews arrived in 10 minutes, but they couldn't get upstairs because the stairway was already heavily damaged by fire. Using outside ladders, firefighters found Dorothy Richel dead in an upstairs hallway.

Investigators say the fire started at several locations in the house. Gary Hale, an investigator with Central Emergency Services, was one of the investigators in a joint effort with Alaska State Troopers and the state fire marshal's office. Hale said when a fire starts in more than one place, suspicion is raised.

The mother and daughter were the only people in the house that night, according to the report. Rachel Richel wasn't hurt in the fire.

Investigators would not say anymore about the incident -- not even why the investigation took nearly two years.

Rebecca's case is being tried outside the juvenile system, even though she was 17 at the time of the fire. According to Kenai District Attorney Dwayne McConnell, anyone older than 16 charged with an unclassified felony is treated as an adult.

She has been held at Hiland Mountain Correction Center in Eagle River on a $100,000 bond.

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