GAINESVILLE, Ga. — An Army wife accused of setting her apartment on fire botched an attempt to collect on her husband’s $400,000 insurance policy when he survived and her two children died instead, a federal prosecutor said.
Billi Jo Smallwood, 35, was denied bond at a Friday hearing in northeast Georgia, where she appeared on federal charges of damaging government property by fire.
“She set fire to her own home in hopes of killing her husband and wound up killing her kids,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Gabay-Smith said.
The May 2007 fire at the Fort Campbell Army post on the Tennessee-Kentucky border killed 9-year-old Sam Fagan, and 2-year-old Rebekah Smallwood.
Smallwood’s husband, Army Spc. Wayne Smallwood, crawled out of a second-level window and suffered a leg injury when he jumped. Their toddler daughter, Nevaeh, was not injured.
U.S. Magistrate Susan Cole said she denied bond mostly because Smallwood was a flight risk. The indictment against her was released Tuesday and she appeared in court in northeastern Georgia, where she has family. She will likely be transferred to Kentucky next week for a Dec. 10 arraignment.
“At this point the evidence appears strong against Mrs. Smallwood,” the judge said. “It’s a heinous crime that’s alleged.”