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Arson suspect released

Via Wyoming News Exchange

CASPER – A woman accused of setting fire to a Casper abortion clinic is being released from jail to live with her parents while a federal grand jury considers her case.

Lorna Green appeared Tuesday afternoon in federal court in Cheyenne, where a magistrate judge weighed whether to hold the 22-year-old in custody. She is formally charged with felony arson of a facility engaged in interstate commerce, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Green is being released on a $10,000 unsecured appearance bond, meaning she doesn’t have to put up any money; she only has to pay the sum if she fails to appear as required.

Green was in custody for one week. She was booked into Natrona County Detention Center on March 21 but was later transferred to the Platte County jail in Wheatland.

Her parents have agreed to let Green live at their Casper family home pending trial. The court is ordering her father to remove his firearms, which are currently in a locked safe, from the home as a condition of her release. She will also be required to surrender her passport to the Natrona County District Court Clerk’s Office.

United States Magistrate Judge Stephanie Hambrick said during the hearing that many factors went into this decision including the nature of the charge, flight risk and community ties.

“And in your case, this is a serious charge,” Hambrick said. “... There is some risk that you are a danger to the community.”

But that was outweighed by other factors including her “strong ties” to Casper.

Green has no record of failing to appear in court and is a full-time student. She is also employed by DoorDash and has financial resources, Hambrick said. Green must stay a full-time student or be a full-time employee as part of the bond agreement.

A pretrial report was compiled to determine if she would be released and under what conditions, and both federal prosecutors and Green’s attorney were in agreement on those terms.

Green only spoke to respond to questions posed by the court, except toward the end of the hearing when she questioned how she would continue to work for DoorDash without a cell phone.

“In order to do DoorDash, I have to use my phone,” she said. “But my phone was taken by law enforcement, and it’s still with them.”

Green waived her right to a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, so no details of her case were discussed in court.

A grand jury will determine if there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed.

Investigators say when they spoke with her last week Green admitted to burning down Wellspring Health Access. She is accused of setting fire to the under-construction clinic in May, just weeks before it was set to open. Authorities received tips that she was the arsonist after Casper police shared enhanced photos of the suspect inside the clinic with a gas can.

Attorney Ryan Semerad represented Green at Tuesday’s hearing.

Semerad, who is part of Casper-based Fuller & Semerad Law Firm, declined to comment on Tuesday due to the recent nature of the charges.

The fire caused serious damage to the clinic. The Wellspring Health Access team has “worked tirelessly” to renovate the facility in the aftermath of the blaze, President Julie Burkhard said in a statement last week.

The clinic is still planning to open its doors.

“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 following Green’s arrest. “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.”

Police released photos and videos of the arson suspect soon after the fire. But the case didn’t gain momentum until they publicized more photos and upped the reward to $15,000 in early March.

Twelve new people came forward in the aftermath. Four of those people identified Green as the suspect, the federal complaint states.

One of the main tipsters was Green’s friend, the federal complaint says.

Many tips mentioned the similarities in the suspect’s face, hair and clothing to Green.

Green was living in Laramie at the time of the fire, but a detective looked through records and found she had a Casper address, the complaint says. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies executed a search warrant at a residence near the corner of East 16th and Newport streets on the morning of March 21. She was arrested that same day.

After authorities showed Green the gathered evidence, she admitted she was the person depicted in the photos and video footage, a federal complaint states.

On May 24, she bought gas cans and aluminum pans and drove from Laramie to Wellspring Health Access with the intention of setting it on fire, the document says.

“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.

She allegedly used a rock to smash a glass door. Green ignited the gas in one room, but the fire spread too quickly, and she was forced to leave before she could light gas in the remaining rooms. While making a quick exit, Green slipped on some of the gasoline and fell. The fire ultimately spread down a hallway to the other rooms, with temperatures hot enough to melt the fluorescent lights inside the building.

Green drove directly back to Laramie and arrived around dawn, the complaint states. She told investigators she took one of the two gas cans with her. She also kept her dark hoodie and pink shirt, which she washed multiple times to get rid of the smell of gasoline.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms offered a $5,000 reward for information that led to the woman’s arrest shortly after the fire. But 10 months passed, and there were still no suspects, the complaint states. An anonymous donor offered up an additional $10,000, so the Casper Police Department was able to increase the total reward by the beginning of March.

This story was published on March 29, 2023.

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