Woman charged with murder in fatal Waterloo house fire

Published: Aug. 20, 2018 at 5:43 PM CDT
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A woman now faces two counts of murder for her role in a deadly Waterloo house fire.

Waterloo Police arrested 41-year-old Denise Susanna O'Brien on Monday. She is charged with two counts of first degree murder for her role in an April 22 fire at 536 Dawson Street.

Ashley Smith, 32 and Jaykwon Sallis, 9, both died as the result of the fire.

Waterloo police say O'Brien was arrested April 23 for violation of a no contact order issued on April 13 for her role in a vandalism at 536 Dawson Street. Police say O'Brien admitted to being involved in an argument at 536 Dawson Street.

According to criminal complaints, O'Brien told investigators she walked to 536 Dawson Street shortly after her boyfriend, Willie Phillips, left her house, and said she knew he was going to see another female. O'Brien said she confronted Phillips in front of the house before getting a ride home from Charles Newman, who was also at the Dawson Street address.

Newman told officers O'Brien had told him she should go back to the house and kill everyone.

Investigators said surveillance video from businesses and residences in the area of 536 Dawson Street just minutes before the fire show O'Brien walking south in the 700 block of Broadway Street, pulling a stocking cap out of her pocket and pulling it over her head, covering most of her face. She then entered a convenience store for a brief time before leaving.

In video from another business, O'Brien is seen walking south on Fairview Street wearing different clothes, holding a plastic cup from the convenience store. This video is about 13 minutes after someone reported fire at 536 Dawson Street, according to the criminal complaint.

Police said text messaging indicated O'Brien knew someone was home at the time of the fire.

O'Brien has been in jail since April 23 on a variety of criminal charges.