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Woman jailed for fatal home fire ‘revenge’

After a woman was evicted from a Wagga Wagga home for verbally abusing another, she returned with a cigarette lighter and a burning desire for revenge.

Jennifer Louise Hay was jailed for at least six years and 10 months on Monday in the NSW District Court after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Kylie Green, 36.

The 49-year-old also pleaded guilty to recklessly damaging or destroying by fire the residence at Tichborne Crescent, Kooringal, on February 25, 2019.

Judge Gordon Lerve sentenced Hay to a maximum term of 10 years and three months, saying the deceased “would have suffered a horrible death”.

In January 2019 Hay had a “chance meeting” with Jennifer Stroud-Watts, 41, at the Wagga Wagga Reject Shop, according to the facts of the case.

Hay was invited to stay after saying she had nowhere to live, but began verbally abusing the woman’s foster sister who suffered physical ailments including asthma and extreme obesity.

“I’m going to put you under the house like a f***en dog like you f***en belong,” Hay said to her while making a fist and punching it aggressively into her open hand, the court was told.

Hay was subsequently evicted and collected her belongings at 3pm on February 24, 2019.

Later she visited a friend and smoked cannabis, saying she was “angry about being asked to leave”.

She returned to her former home about 6am the following day, and while the sisters slept she set alight the couch on the front patio, leaving 10 minutes later.

The fire swept through the front room, up the curtains and filled the house with smoke.

Ms Stroud-Watts awoke to the smell of burning rubber, saw flames engulfing her home and banged on Ms Green’s door.

She eventually crawled through a window while neighbour Darren Stewart attempted to free the trapped woman inside who was also encouraged to leave that way.

She said “I can’t I can’t” and remained lying on the floor while glass shattered around her.

Firefighters arrived and attempted to pull the woman out but were forced back by the heat that partially melted one’s helmet.

Ms Green was pronounced dead after the fire was extinguished, while much of the house was significantly destroyed.

Judge Lerve found Hay showed some remorse in comments to her treating doctor.

“I regret what I did, it’s harmed a good person, it’s put me in here, every day I think about it,” she said.

“I hurt two innocent people really when you think about it, it’s hit home … Hopefully this experience in jail is a bit of a wake-up call.”

There was a great risk of death when Hay “lit the couch on fire as revenge for being evicted from the premises,” Judge Lerve said in sentencing remarks.

Hay understood the woman’s disability and vulnerability after living with her for some time but her intention was only to set alight the couch, not the entire house, the judge said.

Expert reports tendered in court found Hay suffered from a complex personality including dramatic and erratic traits, and mild bipolar disorder.

In 2009 she was seriously injured in a car crash that killed her partner, and suffered untreated PTSD as a result.

She has a long history of alcohol and drug dependence after being raised by an alcoholic and absent mother, and endured a traumatic and abusive childhood.

The judge was unable to find she had good prospects of rehabilitation and ensured a lengthy parole period would provide supervision for her integration back into society as early as March 2027.

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