Feds: Woman charged in Wyoming clinic fire opposes abortion
By MEAD GRUVER and AMY BETH HANSON
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A woman accused of setting fire last year to a Wyoming abortion clinic that was under construction told investigators that she opposes abortion and was experiencing anxiety and nightmares over the facility opening, authorities say in court documents.
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 inside the facility and lit it, according to the court filing.
Several tipsters identified Green as a possible suspect after the reward for information in the case was increased to $15,000 this month. Officers arrested Green in Casper on Tuesday.
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.
Dressed in olive green prison garb and wearing glasses, Green said only “yes” and “no” in response to basic questions from Rankin during the 20-minute hearing.
She is charged with arson, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Reached by phone, her attorney, Ryan Semerad, declined to 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 those plans were 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 enforcement of the ban after a hearing in which abortion-rights supporters said it harms pregnant women and their doctors, and violates the state constitution.
Owens suspended the ban for at least two weeks. Meanwhile, the state’s first-in-the-nation ban on abortion pills 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 that matched those worn by the arson suspect. And Green drove a beige, 2007 Toyota Corolla that matched a car in security footage shot at the crime scene, according to Wright’s statement.
Confronted by investigators Tuesday, Green acknowledged setting the fire amid “nightmares which she attributed to her anxiety about the abortion clinic,” Wright said in the court filing.
Green was living in Laramie at the time at the time of the fire. She told investigators that she bought gas cans and aluminum pans at a Walmart the day before the fire, 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, Wright wrote.
She said she used a rock to break glass in a door and, once inside, poured gasoline into the pans in several rooms and on the floor. She set fire to the gasoline in a room and planned to light more, but the fire spread quickly and she decided to leave, Wright’s statement said.
Green said she slipped on gasoline and fell before she fled out the door she had entered, then drove 150 miles (241 kilometers) back to Laramie without stopping, Wright wrote.
Reached by phone Thursday, Green’s father, Stephen Green, declined to comment and referred questions to her attorney.
Hanson reported from Helena, Montana. Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.