Calgary Herald

Saturday, September 22, 2001

Woman handed curfew, fine for house fire

Argument led wife to pour gas on husband

Grady Semmens
Calgary Herald

A Calgary woman will live under house arrest for the next year and make a donation to a fire prevention charity after she destroyed part of her house when she tried to set her husband on fire.

Leanne Lavery pleaded guilty to arson causing property damage for dousing her sleeping husband in gasoline and setting her basement on fire after a drunken fight last year.

"This is an offence that has violent overtones and is extremely serious," provincial court Judge Allan Fradsham said.

The 34-year-old ceramic company employee appeared distraught as Crown prosecutor Les Grieve told Fradsham about the Oct. 28, 2000 incident that saw her husband narrowly escape being set ablaze.

Lavery and her husband John were drinking with a man who was living in their Midpark Drive S.E. home when an argument erupted between the husband and wife.

At about 4 a.m., the two men retired to the basement and a short time later, John Lavery woke up to find the room on fire and himself smelling of gas.

"She poured gas on him, ignited it with some kind of flame and then fled the home," Grieve said.

"Fortunately, it didn't light him on fire and the men got out as the fire department showed up to put the fire out."

The house sustained $50,000 damage and more than $8,000 worth of property was lost.

"This was a danger to the community. It was risky for firefighters to enter the home and neighbours homes were at risk of being damaged," Grieve said.

The couple are still married and living together in the home, according to Leanne Lavery's lawyer, Les Matt.

The court hearing was stalled for about half an hour after John Lavery told Fradsham he started the fire by lighting a cigarette when he woke up.

Lawyers later dismissed his claim after Fradsham said he couldn't sentence Lavery until knowing the facts.

"She has agreed to accept the Crown's version of the facts," Matt said.

The couple's insurance company has cancelled coverage on their home and refuses to pay for the damage, Matt said.

Matt argued for a conditional discharge, which would not lead to Lavery having a criminal record, but Fradsham chose to impose a conditional sentence as recommended by Grieve.

"It would be against the public interest to grant a conditional discharge in this case," Fradsham said.

Lavery is required to stay at home between the hours of

8 p.m. and 6 a.m., undergo alcohol abuse counselling and make a $200 donation to a charity involved in fire prevention or helping fire victims.

© Copyright 2001 Calgary Herald