Clinic arson suspect remains jailed
March 23, 2023
CASPER — A woman charged with setting fire to a Casper abortion clinic will be held in a Platte County jail for the time being.
A judge made the determination to keep Lorna Green in custody during her initial appearance Thursday in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. Green, 22, appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Kelly H. Rankin.
She was formally charged with felony arson of a facility engaged in interstate commerce, which carries a sentence of five to 20 years in prison.
Green is accused of setting fire to a Wellspring Health Access abortion clinic under construction along East Second Street in central Casper. The clinic was only weeks from opening and was set to become the second facility in the state to offer abortion services.
The fire caused serious damage to the building, and the clinic has yet to open.
Federal authorities arrested Green on Tuesday. Investigators say she admitted to burning down the clinic when they spoke with her.
Over the past 10 months, the Wellspring Health Access team has “worked tirelessly” to renovate the clinic in the aftermath of the attack, all while the suspect remained at large, President Julie Burkhart said in a statement. The team is continuing to focus on opening the clinic’s doors, so it can provide reproductive health care in a “safe, compassionate environment.”
“We at Wellspring Health Access are relieved that a suspect has finally been arrested and detained in last May’s horrific arson attack,” Burkhart said. “This arson, one of at least five arson attacks against abortion providers in the past 18 months, caused $290,000 worth of damage and created a ripple of apprehension and fear across the Casper community.”
Green was originally booked into the Natrona County Detention Center but is now being held at the Platte County Detention Center, Rankin said during the hearing.
She is scheduled back in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.
The state has filed a motion for detention while the trial continues, and the court plans to discuss that then, too. Rankin temporarily detained Green until then, handing her over to the custody of the U.S. Marshal.
Attorney Ryan Semerad is representing Green, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Sprecher represented the state at Thursday’s hearing. Fuller & Semerad Law Firm, which is based out of Casper, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Authorities say Green admitted she was the person depicted in the scene after she was shown the evidence they gathered, a federal complaint filed Wednesday states.
“Green stated she did not like abortion and was having nightmares which she attributed to her anxiety about the abortion clinic, so she decided to burn the building,” the complaint states.
Green was living in Laramie at the time of the fire. On May 24, she bought gas cans and aluminum pans and drove to Wellspring Health Access with the intention of setting it on fire, the federal complaint states. She allegedly picked up a rock to smash a glass door, so that she could gain entry to the building, the complaint states.
Green lit the gas in one of the rooms with the intention of lighting gas in the other rooms, too. But the fire spread too quickly, and she was forced to leave. Green slipped on some on the gasoline on her way out and fell.
She drove directly to Laramie without stopping after starting the blaze, the complaint states. She arrived around dawn, and Green told investigators she threw away the pants she was wearing but kept her dark hoodie and pink shirt, which she had to wash many times to get rid of the smell of gasoline. She also took one of the two gas cans with her.
Evidence technicians found significant fire and smoke damage in the clinic. The fire had engulfed a room and spread down a hallway to other rooms; fluorescent lights melted and fell to the floor.
Shortly after the fire, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms offered a $5,000 reward for information that led to the woman’s capture. Ten months passed, and there were still no suspects, the complaint states. The Casper Police Department increased the reward to $15,000 with the help of an anonymous donor at the beginning of March.
The increased incentive — and enhanced photos shared with the public — seems to have worked, as 12 new people came forward — four of those identified Green as the suspect.
One of the main tipsters who identified Green was her friend, the federal complaint filed in her case says. Many tips referenced Green by name, mentioning the similarities in face, hairline and clothing.
A detective looked through records and found Green had a Casper address. Investigators executed a search warrant at the home on Tuesday. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies searched a residence near the corner of East 16th and Newport streets. A woman wearing blue medical gloves was seen leaving the house, as plainclothes officers searched the residence just after 10:30 a.m. There were several unmarked cars parked out front.
This story was published on Mar. 24, 2023.