(Stillwater, Okla.) — A Stillwater woman accused of setting fire to her building that exploded at Stonegate Apartments on N. Boomer Road remains free on a personal recognizance bond pending her appearance in court this afternoon on a first-degree arson charge.
Geneva Bell Wellington, 40, who has a history of drug and property convictions, could be given a 35-year prison term and a $25,000 fine if found guilty of setting the fire at the apartment complex, which has numerous residents, court records show.
Stillwater Police Officer Justin Reedy was sent to Stonegate Apartments at 7:49 a.m. on May 11 to assist the Stillwater Fire Department, according to his affidavit.
“I could see the north side of the building was fully engulfed in flames and I saw Geneva Wellington walking towards the south on the east side of the building. I exited my patrol car and took a couple of steps when the building exploded.
“The explosion was strong enough to shake my patrol car. I ran to the south end of the apartments and began knocking on doors to evacuate occupants,” but could find none inside any of the units, the Stillwater officer wrote in his affidavit.
While firefighters were attempting to put out the blaze, Stillwater Fire Marshal Steve Sylvester said that a witness told him “Wellington had commented to them that she was smoking and placed her cigarette on top of her oxygen tank,” the affidavit alleged.
The apartment manager “wrote in a statement that Wellington stated she started the fire by placing a lit cigarette on her oxygen tank,” the affidavit alleged.
A relative of Wellington said “Wellington told her she didn’t want to be here anymore and was trying to set her apartment on fire to take her own life,” the affidavit alleged. The relative “saw Wellington’s apartment on fire and she heard Wellington say she didn’t have anyone anymore and didn’t know why she was still here,” the affidavit alleged.
The relative “asked her how she started the fire and Wellington said she put her cigarette on her oxygen tank and the next thing she knew her apartment was on fire,” the affidavit alleged.
Another witness “said Wellington had put her head next to hers and started crying – telling her she put her lit cigarette on her oxygen tank and walked slowly outside,” the affidavit alleged.
While Wellington was being transported to the Stillwater Police Department Jail, “Wellington was saying her body hurt and she was having trouble breathing. Due to this, I contacted Sgt. Blakey and told him I was going to be calling for an ambulance to meet me at SPD Jail, since I was only a couple blocks away,” the Stillwater officer wrote in his affidavit.
Wellington was transported to the Stillwater Medical Center’s emergency room by LifeNet ambulance, the affidavit said.
When the Stillwater officer contacted the Payne County Jail and advised the staff of Wellington’s medical condition, “I was told they would not accept her due to her condition,” the officer wrote in his affidavit.
“I contacted Judge Corley and spoke with him and explained Wellington’s condition. I asked Judge Corley if she could be cited and released, which he granted,” with an order to appear in court, the Stillwater officer wrote in his affidavit.
Court records show that Wellington had pleaded guilty in 2004 to three separate charges for which she was placed on five years’ probation with an order to enroll in and complete the Payne County Drug Court program – for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in Stillwater in 2004, concealing stolen property taken in rural Cushing in 2004, and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in rural Payne County in 2003.
Wellington had also pleaded guilty in 1997 to uttering a forged instrument in Payne County for which she was initially placed on two years’ probation under a deferred sentence that was changed due to a probation violation to a three-year suspended sentence except 60 days in jail in 1999, court records show.