Accused Arsonist Charged with 12 Counts of Murder

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A criminal complaint was filed Thursday charging the accused arsonist in a downtown hotel fire with 12 counts of first-degree murder, a prosecutor told The Associated Press.

Valerie Moore, 47, a convicted murderer who was paroled a year
ago, was arrested and booked on suspicion of murder the morning
after the Oct. 31 fire at the Mizpah Hotel that killed 12 and injured 31. Prosecutors had put off filing formal charges until a search of the building's rubble for victims was completed Wednesday.

The criminal complaint, which also includes one count of first-degree arson, was filed, and a warrant issued for her arrest at the Washoe County Jail on Thursday afternoon, said Dave Clifton, Washoe County's chief deputy district attorney.

Moore, who worked at a nearby casino, is accused of starting the
deadliest blaze in the city's history by setting a mattress on fire after a dispute with a fellow tenant in the 84-year-old hotel.

"This was a horrendous fire and devastating to life. We're going forward with full vigor to get justice in this case," Clifton told the AP.

He declined to discuss any of the evidence recovered from the historic, three-story brick building "because it's too big of case as far as all the potentials, the death penalty and so on."

It may be the most murder counts filed in a single case in Reno since Priscilla Ford was convicted of killing six people and injuring 23 after she drove her Lincoln Continental down a crowded sidewalk on Thanksgiving Day in 1980, Clifton said. Ford died in prison in January 2005.

"I would venture to guess it is the largest as far as murder charges," Clifton said. "We're treating it very seriously."

Moore, who has been held in the jail without bail on a parole violation charge since Nov. 1, will make her initial appearance in Reno Justice Court on Monday, he said.

The county public defender's office initially has been assigned to represent her, Clifton said, but an attorney has not been designated. It was not clear if she would appear before the judge or through a video hookup from the jail, he said.

As many as 83 tenants were in the Mizpah Hotel when the fire broke out, police said. Many were rescued by firefighters on ladders, and several jumped to the street below.

A national response team from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives worked with local crews using search dogs
and state-of-the-art equipment to recover the victims whose names
have not been released because police said some of the family members have not been notified.