A woman from rural New Auburn who was hospitalized last August during a fire at her home has been charged with felony arson, according to a complaint filed Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, in Barron County Circuit Court.
The complaint identifies the defendant as Tonia M. Morrison, 45, 216 30th St., New Auburn, and is based on an investigation that started after an early-morning fire on Monday, Aug. 12, at the defendant’s home in the town of Dovre.
Four deputies went to the scene, where they found New Auburn firefighters putting out the blaze. By the time deputies reached the scene, the defendant had been taken for treatment to Mayo Hospital Eau Claire, the complaint said.
Deputies learned that all of the doors and windows were locked from the inside and the windows were sealed shut, with the exception of one broken window on the southeast corner of the building. A dog was in a kennel near the end of the driveway. The defendant’s vehicle was parked some distance away. A parrot was found dead in a cage inside the house.
The cause of the fire was investigated by the Sheriff’s Department, the New Auburn Fire Department and the Wisconsin State Fire Marshal’s office.
Later the same day, a search warrant was executed by those departments, along with assistance by the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation and a K9 officer. Photos were taken. The dog gave a positive alert to the presence of fire accelerants. Samples of carpeting and clothing were cataloged, sealed and removed from the scene. The evidence was sent to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab on Aug. 13.
A witness later told police that he and his three children had lived with the defendant for a short time, but that he moved away shortly before the fire.
On the day of the fire, the witness returned to the home to speak with the defendant about their relationship. He saw three red plastic gas cans were missing from a carport at the home, which he said had been used to fill lawnmowers.
The defendant made an unsolicited visit to the Sheriff’s Department on Aug. 15. There, she allegedly said she didn’t remember starting the fire but “feels like she did it.”
She said she moved the dog and car away from the home, but had forgotten about the parrot. After igniting the fire, the defendant said she went to her bedroom and lay down. When smoke filled the bedroom, she tried to cover her face with a pillow, then broke the window, went outside, and called 911.
The double-wide trailer was valued at $81,000 & at the time of the fire was mortgaged for $76,556.40, the complaint said.