Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Woman loses all, now her freedom

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Lori Ann Walsh has lost her house, job, and visits with her child because of her relationship with her boyfriend. Now Walsh has lost her freedom.

Walsh, 34, was sentenced to 20 months in jail by associate chief provincial court Judge Michel Chartier on Friday for setting her own home on fire on March 29, 2009.

While Walsh wept loudly, Chartier said he had considered allowing her to serve her sentence at home, but decided not to because she was still with the boyfriend who had helped introduce her to drugs and is currently charged with assaulting her.

In fact, Chartier said, while Walsh told him earlier in the sentencing she'd had no contact with the man other than a "chance meeting," the court has since learned she was still living with him.

"She was prepared to lie to the court about it," the judge said.

"He has been described as the cornerstone of her demise and one of the primary reasons her life has spiralled out of control.

"I am unable to conclude that the safety of the community would not be endangered by the sentence being served in the community. A conditional sentence in this particular case is inconsistent with the purposes and principles of sentencing."

Court was told Walsh, a social worker with Child and Family Services until 2007, was in "an emotionally distraught state" when she poured accelerant on the carpet of her 170 Bertrand St. home and set it ablaze hours after being notified by the mortgage company it had started foreclosure proceedings. She had consumed crack cocaine and alcohol.

Chartier said Walsh tried to put out the fire, but it spread so quickly she had to escape the house with her cats.

Court was told the blaze caused $250,000 damage to her house and neighbouring houses. Her house had to be demolished.

Court was told Walsh's financial situation had been destroyed since she got addicted to drugs with her boyfriend. As well, court was told, the woman's former husband won't let their daughter visit while she is still involved with the man.

Earlier, Crown attorney Deann Sahulka had asked for Walsh to be sentenced to three years in prison, while defence counsel Katherine Bueti had argued for the sentence to be served in the community.

Court was told Walsh had been sexually abused beginning at age nine to 15 by her mother's boyfriend, who paid her mother to commit the acts.

Court was told Walsh met her current boyfriend in 2004 and has been trying to break up with him.

"She is homeless, jobless, severely depressed and alone," Chartier said.

"The situation culminated in her committing the arson in a state of sheer desperation."

Chartier also ordered the woman to follow up her jail sentence with 18 months of supervised probation.

Meanwhile, Chartier also fined the woman $500 for a charge of fraud in which she wrote three cheques worth a total of $950.21, in 2008, knowing her account had already been closed by the bank because it was overdrawn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 13, 2010 B3

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