Taos DA: Woman who admitted to starting Ranchos house fire 'a danger'

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 3/12/19

The 8th Judicial District Attorney's Office filed a motion this week to keep a 59-year-old woman held in jail while she faces a felony arson charge for allegedly setting fire to her former home in …

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Taos DA: Woman who admitted to starting Ranchos house fire 'a danger'

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The 8th Judicial District Attorney's Office this week filed a motion to hold 59-year-old Patricia Gootgeld in jail after she allegedly admitted to setting fire to her former home and threatened the couple who had purchased it under foreclosure.

"The weight against the defendant is very strong," the motion reads. "Prior to the arson, in November, it was reported that the defendant wanted to go into the house, break through a window, and start the house on fire while she was inside."

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Gootgeld admitted to doing just that during an interview with a Taos County Sheriff's Deputy the morning of the fire, on Feb. 2. As the interview continued, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home smoldered nearby on Calle Angelo near Ranchos de Taos.

Firefighters were called to the blaze early that morning around 6 a.m. and worked for hours to get it under control. After the fire was out, investigators searching the home's interior noted significant damage, including several large holes in the roof.

In the bedrooms, they say they found stacks of papers, trash and other combustibles piled high, as if they had been placed there to stoke the blaze.

Gootgeld was found shivering outside the burning house by a neighbor who heard her calling for help.

According to the affidavit, the 59-year-old told the deputy she "came in through a window, poured charcoal fluid throughout the house, and ignited that fluid with matches."

She was charged with one count of arson, a second-degree felony, for causing damages to the home estimated to exceed $20,000, a charge that can carry several years in prison. Gootgeld was sent to Albuquerque for mental health services but later checked herself out of the facility, according to Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe.  She was arrested in Taos on the arson charge. 

Announcing the state's intention to hold Gootgeld in jail until trial, state prosecutor Steven Romero said the couple that purchased the foreclosed home found bags containing lighter fluid bottles outside the residence.

The motion also says Gootgeld "had sent threatening message" to the couple, who have declined to comment on the case.

Since Gootgeld was known to be living in her car since she was evicted last year, the state is also arguing that she is a flight risk.

A hearing for the motion has been scheduled for Friday (March 15) in Taos District Court.

 

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