Court Dismisses Felony Arson Charge after Public Defender Questions Ownership of Plants

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By Gabriel Eskandari

WOODLAND, CA – During a preliminary hearing in Yolo County Superior Court this week for Lisa Parrish, a woman facing both a felony and a misdemeanor arson charge, Deputy Public Defender Teal Dixon successfully convinced the court to dismiss the felony charge by carefully analyzing the language of the charge, and ownership of plants.

The charges stem from Aug. 15 at around 8:10 p.m., where Parrish is accused of lighting two plants on fire that were on a raised concrete parking divider in a West Sacramento parking lot.

Certified post-bar Gustavo Figueroa, under the supervision of Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor, called two officers as witnesses.

The first officer, Officer Nolan Nagle, stated that he arrived at the scene and noticed a white female—whom he identified as Parrish—talking to the firefighters.

Officer Nagle then stated that he took a statement from the onsite property manager of the business complex where the alleged incident took place. He stated that the manager smelled smoke and walked toward the parking lot, where she saw Parrish walking away but then returning to light the second plant on fire.

The second officer, Officer Jonas Eiremo, stated that he made contact with Parrish at the scene, and that he had observed two black spots in the planter in the parking lot.

Officer Eiremo then stated he conducted a search on Parrish and found a small bottle of alcohol and a lighter.

Officer Eiremo said he took a statement from Parrish, who allegedly stated that she had been in the area with her sister and that she burned the plants to protect herself and her sister from some people who had been following her.

Officer Eiremo then stated, “She [Parrish] said that the plants were blond and she also had blond hair, and that is why she burnt them.”

After, PD Dixon asked Officer Eiremo if it would be safe to say that her client’s statements did not make a lot of sense, to which Officer Eiremo responded affirmatively.

PD Dixon also asked about the size of the plants, and Officer Eiremo estimated they were about eight to ten inches in diameter.

Then, PD Dixon argued against the felony arson charge due to it specifically being about burning the property of another person, noting, “We didn’t hear any testimony from the owner of the plants nor do we know whether there actually is an owner of the plants,” said Dixon.

“We don’t know whether these were weeds, whether these were plants that were planted there because somebody wanted them to be there, we don’t know whether some well-meaning person in the community might have planted them just to make it look nice, we don’t know if they did look nice, we don’t know if Ms. Parrish might have planted them there,” argued PD Dixon.

“I think without some testimony of who owns these plants, whether these were plants that anyone would even claim ownership of, I don’t think the court can hold her to answer because it needs to be the property of another. The code section requires it to be the property of another,” PD Dixon continued.

Figueroa, for the prosecution, responded by stating that the fact that the plants were placed in a parking lot planter was circumstantial evidence that they belonged to someone and that someone put them there, and that the court did in fact hear some statements from the owner of the shopping complex where the plants were.

Ultimately, Judge Joseph Orr dismissed the felony charge, while holding the misdemeanor charge, but added that Parrish could not be released and that “she needs to be assessed for something.”

PD Dixon thus suggested putting the matter over until the next court date to figure out a way to resolve it.

Judge Orr suggested looking into supervised release in whichever county she is a resident of, and he stated that she’s been deemed a high risk in Yolo County due to her lack of residence there and because the story she conveyed did not make a lot of sense.

The matter will resume on Nov. 22.

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About The Author

Gabriel is a recent graduate of UC Davis. He majored in Political Science.

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