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Stayton woman sentenced to 5 years after toddler dies in house fire

SALEM — A Stayton woman was sentenced to five years in prison after her toddler died in a house fire.

Jessica Marie Pearce, 27, was convicted of criminally negligent homicide by Judge Tracy Prall Sept. 17, the Statesman Journal reported. Pearce had entered a no-contest plea. Child neglect and criminal mistreatment charges were dismissed, court records show.

Pearce was away from home on Feb. 1, 2019, when firefighters responded to a house fire and found the body of 2-year-old Christopher James Pearce.

Pearce and her son had been living with roommates. She said she was running errands and left Christopher at home with a friend in addition to two other adults and a 12-year-old girl. She said without her knowledge, Bender left the toddler with the older child.

Pearce upon returning home, found it on fire and went into the house “hysterically” to find her son, court documents said. Firefighters later found the toddler.

Investigators say they found the fire originated in the bedroom where the child was found. Investigators found cinderblocks with a cast iron pan on top and several propane and/or butane canisters, according to the Office of the Marion County Public Defender.

The state fire marshal said the cause of the fire was “undetermined” because there were “multiple ignition sources” such as heating, smoking, and open flame, the statement said.

Defense attorney Sara Foroshani said Pearce was cooperative with searches and interviews.

It was found that Pearce and a roommate “used the butane to melt circuit boards from various electronics to extract precious metals,” statements show.

In the interview, Pearce said she figured it was “an honest way to make money, but that did not turn out.”

–The Associated Press

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