Moore gets multiple life prison terms for deadly Reno fire

By: SANDRA CHEREB, AP Writer
By: SANDRA CHEREB, AP Writer

RENO, Nev. (AP) - The woman responsible for Reno's deadliest
hotel fire was sentenced Friday to 12 consecutive life prison terms
without parole for the Halloween night blaze that killed a dozen
people and injured 31.
Washoe District Judge Brent Adams imposed the maximum penalty
for each count after victims' families pleaded with him to
guarantee Valerie Moore would never leave prison again.
Chief Deputy District Attorney David Clifton, in arguing for
consecutive life terms, said a lesser sentence would be tantamount
to acknowledging only one victim.
"There were 12," he said. "Each and every one of these lives
is important,"
Adams also sentenced Moore to up to 15 years for first-degree
arson.
The case, the judge said, "demonstrates the consequences of
anger - it's mayhem and murder." He then imposed each sentence one
at a time.
"It is the intention of the court that the defendant shall
spend the rest of her natural life in prison," Adams said.
In a brief statement to the court, Moore apologized the victim's
families but denied her guilt, saying she only pleaded guilty to
avoid the death penalty.
"I'm sorry for each and every one of your loss, but I did not
do this," she said, as some in the courtroom gasped.
Afterward, Clifton said Moore, who has a history of mental
illness, has made similar statements since her arrest.
Victim family members, some choking on tears or clutching photos
of their loved ones, told the judge how their lives had changed
forever.
"We're robbed of our brother, nephew, cousin and best friend,"
said Cynthia Bridges, whose brother, Phillip Bridges, 49, was among
those killed. "He didn't deserve such a horrible death. No one
does."
Michelle Fletcher shook with grief as she told of losing her
only son, 22-year-old Christopher Covert.
"My son never had a chance to shine," she cried. "He was
trying to find himself, his own niche in life."
Fletcher said she wouldn't hate Moore, because she believed
hatred is what caused her son's death.
Covert's aunt, Amelia Hoff, had harsher words.
"Lord have mercy on your murdering soul, Valerie Moore," Hoff
said.
John Elswick said he lost more than his stepson, Jeremy Wren, on
the night of the fire.
"I've lost my beautiful, vivacious wife," he said. "She
wishes she were dead to be with her son."
Moore, 47, a casino cook, was paroled in 2005 after serving 17
years in prison for second-degree murder. Prosecutors said she
killed a woman who had spurned Moore's sexual advances and argued
with her over money.
On the night of the fire, authorities said she was angry with
another tenant at the Mizpah Hotel when she set fire to a mattress
outside his door.
The flames quickly spread through the 84-year-old brick building
that was equipped with smoke detectors but was not required to have
sprinklers. Many people were rescued by firefighters and some
jumped from second-story windows of the residential hotel where
rooms rented for $150 a week.
Investigators said the victims, ranging in age from 22 to 78,
all died of asphyxiation from smoke and soot.
Moore pleaded guilty in January to the 13 charges in a plea
agreement with prosecutors that allowed her to avoid a death
sentence.
Moore's attorney, public defender Jennifer Lund, also urged the
court to follow the agreement, which would free prosecutors to seek
a death penalty if Moore should change her mind about her pleas and
seek an appeal.
The agreement, Lund said, was "entered into for a variety of
very good reasons."
Lund said Moore was intoxicated and had been using cocaine that
night.
Though an unspeakable crime, she said Moore had no thought that
the fire would erupt as quickly as it did and that 12 people would
die.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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