Woman pleads innocent to killing her son in fire

Posted: Friday, November 24, 2000

PALMER (AP) -- A woman pleaded innocent to charges she killed her 14-year-old son and tried to kill an older boy to collect their life insurance.

Suzette Welton of Wasilla said little Wednesday during the hearing in Superior Court in Palmer. The 37-year-old woman is charged with murder, attempted murder and arson. She is being held at the Mat-Su Pre-Trial Facility on $500,000 cash only bail.

Welton is accused of drugging her sons, then setting fire Sept. 15 to the Wasilla apartment she shared with her children, according to court documents. Samuel Welton was killed. His 17-year-old brother, Jeremiah, narrowly escaped by jumping out a window. A 6-year-old sister was uninjured.

Welton had purchased $100,000 life insurance policies on both boys three months before the fire, according to charging documents. She also had received an eviction notice a few weeks prior to the fire for not paying rent, said apartment manager Michael Boylan.

State fire investigators said burn patterns showed the fire appeared to have been started by someone pouring a fuel on the floor between the boys' bedrooms upstairs and the stairs leading to the ground floor.

Investigators also found that two smoke detectors in the home had been disabled. The hand cranks on the windows in both boys' bedrooms had been removed, according to court documents.

An autopsy of Samuel Welton found traces of the drug diphenhydramine, a sedative commonly found in the anti-allergy medication Benadryl.

The older boy told troopers his mother had brought drinks home for both boys the night of the fire. They both felt tired after drinking them.

''He couldn't even keep his head up,'' he said of his brother. ''I had to hit him a couple times.''

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