Pennsylvania Woman Detained In Wyoming National Forest Arson Cases
A federal judge ordered a Pennsylvania woman held in custody pending her trial for allegedly setting fires last year in Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin on Thursday agreed with the federal prosecutor that Stephanie Joy Nicole Dodson should be detained because her release could not assure public safety and that her release could not assure that she would appear in court for future hearings, according to the minutes of her arraignment and detention hearing.
During her arraignment, Dodson pleaded not guilty to eight identical felony counts of "timber set afire" in the national park and the national forest. Conviction on each count carries a prison sentence of up to five years.
Rankin set her trial for Nov. 6 in Cheyenne before U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson.
Reasons for her detention listed in the minutes of the hearing included: the evidence against her; a potential long sentence if convicted; past criminal history; committing a crime while on probation; history of alcohol or substance abuse; lack of stable employment, residence, finances and community ties in Wyoming; prior failures to appear in court and attempts to evade law enforcement; and prior violations of probation, parole or supervised release.
Dodson also is wanted elsewhere, according to the minutes of the hearing. "The Defendant has multiple active warrants in numerous jurisdictions in the United States."
She is from Everett, Pa., in Bedford County in central Pennsylvania.
Bedford County Attorney Bill Higgins, Jr., said Dodson is well-known there. "We have a number of incidents over the years on drug and alcohol offenses."
A federal grand jury indicted her on July 20, and charged her with the eight counts. The indictment only outlined the dates, places and names of the fires. It did not give details about the investigation, Dodson's background or possible motives, or how much damage each fire caused.
Wyoming U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Mark Trimble said in July that Dodson was working on a dude ranch at the time the fires were set, with six of them set in the forest on the same day.
She apparently returned to Pennsylvania.
U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl issued an arrest warrant for Dodson on July 24. She was arrested in Pennsylvania on Aug. 17, appeared in federal court in Pennsylvania, and was transferred to Wyoming, according to court records.
In a separate federal case, Dodson was charged in August 2016 with four misdemeanor traffic violations that occurred in June 2016. Court records indicate she did not appear for her hearing on those misdemeanors. There was no indication if there were any connections between the traffic violations and the fires.