Woman jailed on attempted murder charges in Forsyth arson case

2014-07-18T11:31:00Z 2014-07-21T06:56:12Z Woman jailed on attempted murder charges in Forsyth arson caseBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Two Forsyth residents face charges that they tried to kill five people by setting a house on fire.

Amber J. Neil Hart made an initial appearance in Justice Court in Rosebud County on Thursday on five counts of accountability to deliberate homicide, accountability to arson, criminal endangerment and tampering with evidence.

Hart is being held in Yellowstone County while a co-defendant, 21-year-old Scott Thomas Granger, is jailed in Rosebud County. Bail was set at $250,000 each and both have public defenders.

Rosebud County Undersheriff Allen Fulton said that his office, with the assistance of the Treasure County Sheriff’s Office, arrested Hart without incident on Tuesday night in Treasure County after months of investigation and interviews.

Fulton said that Hart is being held at the jail in Billings to keep her separate from Granger. He was charged last Nov. 22 with five counts of attempted deliberate homicide and one count each of arson, assault with a weapon and criminal endangerment in relation to the fire.

While charging documents for Hart weren’t immediately available from Rosebud County on Friday, those for Granger indicate that the fire started at a house in Forsyth early on Nov. 3, 2013.

A caller reported that he heard what sounded like firecrackers and saw leaves around the house next to his on fire.

When a Rosebud sheriff’s deputy arrived, he found the house engulfed in flames and its five occupants, who escaped through a window, outside and uninjured.

A man who lives in the house then brought the deputy to a burn trail, which gave off “an odor like diesel fuel,” that led from the from the back gate to the house, the affidavit states.

The deputy also found a container of Pyrodex, a gunpowder substitute used for muzzle-loading and reloading of cartridge firearms.

Residents of the home reported that they’d had a party there that night and that Granger passed out there after becoming drunk. A man at the party took a photo of one of the house’s occupants pointing his rear end towards Granger while making a gesture with his hand and mouth.

A short time later, two men took Granger home and showed him the photo, which angered Granger. He told them he was going to return to the house with a “hot mag” and shoot the people who lived there, the charging documents state.

Despite attempts from others to calm him down while at his home, Granger loaded a 12-gauge shotgun, racked a shell into it and pointed it at one of them, according to the affidavit.

That man then went back to the house where the picture was taken to warn others that Granger was upset and possibly on his way over.

At about 1:30 a.m., the five people in the house awoke to find the house on fire. The fire had also spread to the garage of a neighboring house.

The people who escaped from the house told investigators that they saw a vehicle that looked like Granger’s leaving the area once they got outside.

According to the affidavit, Granger spoke to investigators the next day and told them that he owns a pump shotgun and black powder firearm and that he’d previously bought a black powder substitute. He also told the investigator that he became upset that people took the picture while he was sleeping, the charging documents state.

Upon searching Granger’s house later, a deputy found a gas can. In his vehicle, the deputy found shotgun shells, lighter fluid and a black hooded sweatshirt, according to court documents.

Charging documents state that people at the party reported that Granger told them he had either gone to Hart’s house or was with her after the party.

A trial for Granger is scheduled to begin on Sept. 2.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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