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A Waterloo police officer guards at 536 Dawson St. where a fire claimed the lives of a child and a woman on Sunday in Waterloo.

WATERLOO – A woman accused of starting a commotion at a Waterloo home the night before a fatal fire has asked the court to reduce her bond.

Denise Susanna O’Brien’s defense attorney, Blake Vierra, on Wednesday told a judge she has job opportunities and is working with a social service agency to find housing because her living arrangements fell through when she was detained.

The mother of two has been living in the Waterloo area for 20 years, Vierra said, and he argued O’Brien’s bond — $31,000 cash only — was too high for her charges, which are misdemeanors.

O’Brien, 41, is accused breaking windows and a Samsung TV at 536 Dawson St. on April 13 and then violating a restraining order — and violating self probation in an unrelated domestic abuse case — by returning to the house April 21 and getting in an altercation with two people there.

The following morning, on April 22, a fire at the Dawson Street home killed Ashley Smith and her 9-year-old son, Jaykwon Sallis. Authorities said they found evidence a flammable substance was used to start the fire, but no arrests have been made in connection with the blaze, and the investigation is continuing.

When O’Brien was arrested that day for breaking the restraining order, she tried to harm herself at the jail, slamming her head into a holding cell wall until deputies intervened, Assistant County Attorney Michelle Wagner said on Wednesday, arguing O’Brien is a danger to the community.

Last year O’Brien was granted a deferred judgment with unsupervised probation in a 2017 domestic assault case involving an ex-boyfriend. Wagner said the April 13 window vandalism on Dawson Street was a similar situation.

“She went to a home where she believed a new boyfriend that she was dating was there with another female. She confronted that female and another female at the home, she became angry at what they were talking about, and there are allegations that she shattered a window at the home,” Wagner said.

Released pending trial for the vandalism, O’Brien had returned to Dawson Street April 21, Wagner said.

“She goes back to the home. … She confronts a woman about this boyfriend being there again, and she becomes violent,” Wagner said. She said there was a physical altercation between O’Brien, the man and another woman.

The fire wasn’t mentioned during the hearing.

Judge Brook Jacobsen said he agreed with the state’s concerns that O’Brien is a potential danger, but he ruled the bond was too high. He kept the bond amount the same but changed it from cash only to cash or surety.


Police and Courts Reporter

Cops and courts reporter for the Courier

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