Judge Chad Bridges sentenced Sierra Renee Davis to six years in prison on Jan. 4 for arson.
The 23-year-old Richmond woman pled guilty to setting fire to an apartment complex last November and asked the court to determine her punishment.
According to Assistant District Attorney Abdul Farukhi, the entire Richmond Fire Department, supported by units from the Rosenberg and Sugar Land fire departments, responded to an apartment complex fire at 2111 Thompson Highway around 5 a.m. on Aug. 23, 2016. The complex was occupied at the time and several families were asleep when the fire broke out.
Richmond Fire Marshal investigators determined the fire was intentionally set and started an arson investigation. Investigators learned from witnesses that the day before, Sierra Davis had previously tried to burn the apartments as well as a vehicle. Investigators interviewed Sierra Davis who confessed to setting four fires in the last two days.
The defendant admitted to starting two fires in the apartment unit and two fires in a vehicle in the parking lot. The defendant said the apartment unit and vehicle belonged to her ex-boyfriend who had cheated. She stated her motivation was revenge; to make “him feel the pain I was feeling.”
Faced with the prospect of a jury trial, Davis pled guilty to arson after a jury was empanelled. The defendant elected to have the trial court assess punishment without a recommendation from prosecutors. At the sentencing hearing, lead Richmond Fire Marshal Investigator Greg Mensik described how Davis told them she set the apartment on fire by breaking a window near the entry door and how she used that opening to ignite a curtain.
The state presented evidence including the defendant’s confession and photographs of the damage to the vehicle, apartment, and burn injuries suffered by her ex-boyfriend. Another resident of the apartment complex testified that she and her four children were asleep in an apartment below at the time of the fire. She testified that the event traumatized her children who needed counseling and that her property was also damaged in the fire.
She stated that Davis never apologized to her and never compensated her for her losses despite her being an innocent party. The owner of the apartment complex testified that the total loss incurred by the fire exceeded $100,000 and that the defendant has not paid anything to compensate him for the loss.
Davis testified at the hearing, blaming the fire on her ex-boyfriend and the drugs and alcohol she was consuming at the time. She said that setting fires was out of character for her and that she was not in her right state of mind. During the prosecution’s cross-examination; however, the defendant acknowledged that she was sober at the time she set the first fire and had left her employment at a children’s daycare to set the fire on Aug. 22.
Davis then clarified that she was under the influence of “weed, Xanax, and alcohol” when she set the fire on Aug. 23, and that after the fire, she prayed to God that he would understand why she did what she did. The defendant admitted to driving while intoxicated to her ex-boyfriend’s apartment and putting other motorists’ lives at risk.
After setting the fire on Aug. 23, and after consuming drugs and alcohol, the defendant acknowledged she went to work at the daycare center where she was eventually apprehended by law enforcement. The state also questioned Davis about a pending harassment charge against a different ex-boyfriend in Harris County that arose after the arson while the defendant was on bond. The defendant denied those allegations.
In their closing remarks, the defense blamed the ex-boyfriend for cheating on the Davis and the apartment complex for not having fire sprinklers or extinguishers, which would have limited the damage caused by the fire. The state responded that Davis continued to blame everyone but herself for her choices and action. The repeated attempts to burn her ex-boyfriend’s property not only put his life at risk, but the lives of innocent families and first responders.
The court stated that while it acknowledged the mitigating factors in the defendant’s social history, it found that the defendant posed a risk to innocent third parties: other residents at the apartments, the fire fighters who risked their lives to stop the fire, and the general public who were at risk if another fire broke ought elsewhere because so many resources were called to fight this fire. The trial court sentenced the defendant to serve six years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
“I understand that betrayal in relationships can give rise to strong emotions, but innocent people should not be put in harm’s way,” said Abdul Farukhi, lead prosecutor for the state. “The loss of life in this case could have been catastrophic and the court’s decision today helps protect the community and our first responders from further danger.”
Davis was prosecuted in the 240th District Court. Arson in this case is a second-degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Davis was eligible to receive probation. Assistant district attorneys Farukhi and Brandon Draper prosecuted the case. Attorney Pejman J. Maadani represented the defendant.