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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Feds: Woman charged in Wyoming clinic fire opposes abortion

She is charged with arson, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A woman accused of setting fire last year to a Wyoming abortion clinic that was under construction told investigators she opposed abortion and was experiencing anxiety and nightmares over the facility opening, authorities say in court documents.

According to the court filing, Lorna Roxanne Green, of Casper, told Matthew T. Wright, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, that she broke into the Wellspring Health Access clinic in Casper on May 25, poured gasoline around the facility and lit it.

Several tipsters identified Green as a possible suspect after the reward for information in the case was increased to $15,000 earlier this month. Officers arrested Green in Casper on Tuesday.

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Green, 22, made an initial appearance by video Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin in Cheyenne. She remained jailed in Wheatland, a town of 3,500 people about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Cheyenne, with no bond set yet.

Appearing in a featureless, cinderblock room, Green said only “yes” and “no” in response to basic questions from Rankin. She wore striped, olive-green prison garb and glasses and spent the 20-minute hearing going through documents on the table in front of her.

She is charged with arson, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Her attorney, Ryan Semerad, didn't immediately return a message Thursday seeking comment.

The clinic was scheduled to open last summer as the only facility of its kind in the state, offering women’s health care, family planning and gender-affirming health care in addition to abortion services. But the fire delayed those plans.

It was then slated to open next month. But that was thrown into doubt after Gov. Mark Gordon allowed a broad new abortion ban to take effect on Sunday without his signature. On Wednesday, Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens halted the ban after a hearing in which abortion-rights supporters said the law harms pregnant women and their doctors and violates the state constitution.

Owens suspended the ban for at least two weeks. Meanwhile, a first-in-the-nation ban on abortion pills in Wyoming remains set to take effect in July, but also faces a court challenge.

Green's arrest followed an investigation that had been stalled for months.

In early March, an anonymous donor added $10,000 to the $5,000 reward in the arson case. Investigators received a dozen tips, including four naming Green as a possible suspect.

An image in one of Green's social media accounts showed her wearing shoes matching the shoes worn by the arson suspect, and Green drove a beige, 2007 Toyota Corolla matching a car in security video at the crime scene, according to Wright's statement.

Confronted by investigators Tuesday, Green allegedly acknowledged setting the fire amid “nightmares which she attributed to her anxiety about the abortion clinic," court records said.

Green was living in Laramie at the time at the time of the fire. She told investigators she bought gas cans and aluminum pans at a Walmart on May 24, drove to Casper, and put the cans and pans in a bag she carried to the clinic, matching security video and a witness's account, court records said.

She allegedly said she used a rock to break glass in a door and once inside, poured gas into the pans in several rooms and on the floor. She set fire to the gas in a room and planned to light more, but the fire spread quickly and she decided to leave, Wright's statement said.

She slipped on gasoline and fell before fleeing out the door she had entered, then drove 150 miles (241 kilometers) back to Laramie without stopping, she allegedly told Wright.

Reached by phone Thursday, Green’s father, Stephen Green, declined to comment and referred questions to her attorney.

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By MEAD GRUVER and AMY BETH HANSON Associated Press

Hanson reported from Helena, Montana. Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

Categories / Criminal, Health, Politics, Regional

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