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Dominica Woman Steals Car and Lights It On Fire After Beach Date Ends Badly: VIPD

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A Dominica native arrested for assault in December has been arrested for stealing a car and setting it on fire after a beach date ended badly, authorities said

Aretha Defoe, 53, of Anna’s Retreat, was arrested at 2 a.m. Wednesday and charged with second-degree arson, destruction of property, unauthorized use of a vehicle, incendiarism, and tampering with a vehicle, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

The unnamed victim told police that he and Defoe went to the beach, where they got into an argument, according to a sworn affidavit by Virgin Islands Police.

Defoe drove off with the victim’s vehicle, leaving him stranded, and the victim said he learned the vehicle had been burned in the area of Estate Elizabeth, Superior Court records indicate. The victim said he confronted Defoe, who told him she had burned the vehicle.

Officers interviewed Defoe who admitted she doused the seats in gasoline and used a cigarette to light the vehicle on fire, according to the police statement.

Defoe was charged in connection to the territory’s domestic violence law and held without bail until her advice-of-rights hearing Friday.

At the hearing, Assistant Virgin Islands Attorney General John Barraco said Defoe is already facing a pending case for third-degree assault, which was “fairly violent.” She has previous convictions in Connecticut for breach of peace, trespass, and larceny, and while she has been arrested in the Virgin Islands, those charges were dismissed, Barraco said.

Barraco said Defoe is also facing a significant prison sentence if convicted, and “between the assaults and the arson, she’s looking at a lot of time.”

Territorial Public Defender Alexia Furlow said Defoe was born in Dominica and has lived in the Virgin Islands for 44 years. Her last conviction was in 2002 in Connecticut, Furlow said, and asked that she be released from jail.

But Superior Court Magistrate Judge Carolyn Hermon-Percell said Defoe’s behavior is cause for concern.

“I think we need a mental health evaluation,” Hermon-Percell said. “I do have concerns about whether she is a danger to the community.”

The judge ordered her to undergo an evaluation and set bail at $35,000, but said she would consider a reduction if Defoe can find a “suitable” third-party custodian who can live with her and monitor her behavior while she awaits trial.

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