Crime

‘Superwoman’ pleads guilty to setting house on fire

“Superwoman” is now a felon.

Six months after being lauded as a hero for her alleged bravery during a house fire, Melinda Sayers, 38, pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree arson and making a false insurance claim.

Sayers, a former nurse, admitted she set the April 1 fire that destroyed the rented house she and her family shared in the 12500 block of 107th Avenue Court East in South Hill. She also admitted to submitting an insurance claim she knew was untrue.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Edmund Murphy sentenced the tearful Sayers to nine months in jail and four months’ probation.

The sentence was part of a deal Sayers reached with deputy prosecutor Doug Hill that also calls for her to get mental health counseling once her sentenced is served. She originally was charged with first-degree arson.

Sayers said before sentencing that she was sorry for what she’d done.

“This experience has humbled me,” she said. “I’m truly sorry to the people I’ve hurt.”

It was quite a fall from grace for Sayers.

Firefighters dubbed her “Superwoman” after she told them she’d saved her 2-year-old son from the flames by dropping him out a bedroom window before narrowly escaping herself.

She made several media appearances to tell her story, and people responded with kind words and more than $32,000 in donations for her family. Her insurance company also paid her $5,000 and provided her family with temporary housing, court records show.

But it was all a ruse.

Investigators determined Sayers, whose family was in financial trouble, intentionally set the fire.

Her attorney, Philip Thornton, said Friday his client was under stress on many fronts at the time, including the death of her infant daughter, who was born prematurely and with brain damage.

“The pressures that were on her at that time were significant,” Thornton said.

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