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Man admits using drugs, then starting fire in his mother’s mobile home

FARMINGTON — A Farmington man has admitted to setting a fire which injured himself and two other people.

Terry Lynn Downs, 46, pled guilty to arson in the second degree Friday. As part of a plea agreement, charges were reduced from arson in the first degree to arson in the second degree, a class C felony.

His trial had been set for Jan. 31.

At the time of the fire, Downs was staying with his mother and his girlfriend in his mother’s mobile home on Blossom Lane in Farmington.

According to court records, the fire started the morning of April 9, 2002, in the back bedroom of the mobile home where Downs and his girlfriend were staying. Downs’ girlfriend became trapped, but Downs got her out and drove her to Parkland Health Center for treatment.

Downs’ girlfriend suffered extensive burns to her face and upper body and was airlifted to St. John’s Mercy Medical Center Burn Unit. Downs suffered burns to his hands and feet while his mother suffered minor burns to her face.

The fire was well-involved by the time Farmington firefighters arrived. Extensive damage was done to both bedrooms, the bathroom and part of the living room. The rest of the structure was damaged by heat and smoke.

A fire investigator with the state fire marshal’s office began a criminal investigation after he noticed a burn pattern on the floor of Downs’ bedroom.

The burn pattern indicated an accelerant had been poured on the floor. The investigator determined the fire originated on the floor and spread upward and outward.

The fire investigator stated in his report it was “clearly evident” a liquid accelerant was present on the floor and someone ignited it.

The fire investigator also found syringes, spoons and a marijuana smoking pipe in the bedroom.

According to court records, the girlfriend stated she awoke to see Downs setting the bed on fire. He was screaming and he did not make an effort to put out the fire. The girlfriend admitted they shared an oxycontin tablet, and he had taken another drug, as well.

Downs’ mother reportedly told police she had just gotten up and was making coffee when the smoke detectors went off. She went in the back bedroom where a fire had started and found Downs in a chair half asleep and the girlfriend on the bed asleep. She said the girlfriend wouldn’t wake up but Downs got her out.

According to court records, Downs’ girlfriend left a message on a neighbor’s answering machine asking for help just hours before the fire.

Downs initially told police and the fire marshal he put a cigarette out in a plastic ashtray beside his bed and awoke later to see a fire along the side of the bed. He said the bed just blew up and his girlfriend became trapped in a corner.

Downs changed his story to say that he had rolled over his butane lighter which caught the bed on fire. He indicated there was a spilled bottle of rubbing alcohol on the floor near the foot of the bed.

Downs changed his story again, telling investigators the fire started after he dropped a cigarette on the floor. Then he changed it once more, saying he fell asleep with a cigarette and woke up with fire by his hands.

While Downs didn’t initially admit to starting the fire, he did admit to using drugs. He told police he used oxycontin and had been doing drugs for several years.

On Friday, Downs told Judge Martinez he used a lighter to start a fire in his mother’s mobile home, adding he was on drugs.

Circuit Court Judge Sandra Martinez ordered a presentence investigation report and set formal sentencing for March 7.

The judge denied the defendant’s request for a bond reduction. Downs is incarcerated in the St. Francois County Jail with bond set at $500,000.

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