Social networking spat ends in arson charges for woman
The alleged motive in a Des Moines arson case is tied to disparaging remarks and other actions on Facebook, a social networking website, police said.
Detectives have arrested Jennifer Christine Harris, 30, of Des Moines on a charge of first-degree arson. She is being held in the Polk County Jail on $100,000 bond.
The fire broke out in a garage at the Jim and Nikki Rasmussen residence, 2351 E. 40th Court, on Oct. 27.
Officials said the fire at 1 a.m. caused a popping sound and then a “boom.” Family members were sleeping at the time, but the sounds alerted them to the danger. They managed to escape as the siding on their house began to melt from the heat of the fire in the detached garage.
The roof of the garage collapsed on the cars inside.
Officers asked Jim Rasmussen if anyone would want to harm his family and he gave the name Jennifer “Jenn” Harris. Harris was a longtime friend of his wife, he said, but they had since started arguing.
Nikki Rasmussen said in a phone interview that her relationship with Harris ended when Harris “said horrible things about me on Facebook.”
“I unfriended her and blocked her so I couldn’t see what she was saying,” Rasmussen said. “But we have mutual friends who could see it.”
Nikki Rasmussen said Jenn Harris was maid of honor at her wedding.
Their relationship started falling apart when they tried to put together a birthday party for Harris, she said. “But there just wasn’t enough time,” Rasmussen said.
Detective Jack Kamerick said the dispute “kept building and building.”
So when the garage went up in flames, Harris became the first name that occurred to the victims. Police say an investigation supports that suspicion.
Harris has been a teacher’s associate at Smouse Elementary School in Des Moines. She was placed on unpaid leave Tuesday, the school district said.