WEST VALLEY CITY — Investigators believe a fire that claimed the life of a West Valley woman early Monday was set by the woman's daughter with the intention of killing her.
Kathie Thomas, 64, died in the fire reported about 12:30 a.m. at 6946 W. Bonnie Arlene Drive (3710 South). Loralie Thomas, 46, was arrested for investigation of aggravated murder, aggravated arson and four counts of attempted aggravated murder.
The arrest confirmed what some family members and neighbors had already suspected.
Ashley Block said Kathie Thomas was her grandmother. She described her as a very generous person who had lived in the house for many years.
"She was amazing. She’d help people when they needed her. She didn’t let anybody be homeless. She helped people with money even when she didn't have money herself,” she said.
Hours before the arrest was announced, Block said she feared Loralie Thomas, her aunt, may have taken advantage of her grandmother's kindness. She described Thomas as conveniently being able to get all of her possessions outside of the house before they burned, as if she removed them prior to the fire starting. And Thomas talked calmly when discussing the fire and her mother's death, Block said.
Six people were in the house when the fire started. One man was found sleeping in the basement, said West Valley Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Fox.
Neighbor Colleen Deschamps said just before the fire started she heard someone pounding on the front door as well as yelling and other commotion, which she said is normal at that residence.
But then she said she saw a glow coming from the doorway and thick smoke. A person ran out of the house, grabbed a hose and sprayed the entryway to try and go back in, but the fire was too intense, Deschamps said.
"All of a sudden I heard a … just this scream, I can’t get it out of my head. And it was quick and fast, and it was done,” she said. "I hear her scream in my head. The knocking on the door, pounding on the door, and then her scream. It’s replaying in my head. It’s just really difficult."
When fire crews arrived, they found Thomas' body. West Valley Fire Marshal Joe White said the woman was trapped inside, though he didn't know what was impeding her from getting out.
Investigators were still looking into the cause of the fire Monday. An accelerant-sniffing dog from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was brought to the scene to go through the house.
Police and fire officials say they have been to the house several times in the past.
Thomas, who also goes by the name Loralie Querbach, has been charged many others times, according to court records, mainly on theft, drug and domestic violence-related charges. In a domestic violence case in 2015, Thomas was charged with slapping and spitting on Block, according to court doucments. She was also charged in a prior domestic violence case involving her mother, court records state.
Contributing: Peter Samore