The woman who allegedly admitted to setting fire to her friend's rental car pleaded not guilty to first-degree arson in Recorder's Court this morning.
Aleysha Shaiann Brooks, 21, of Atlanta also pleaded not guilty to the false name charge she was issued after officials determined that she lied about her identity during the confession. Judge Michael Cielinski ordered her held in Muscogee County Jail under bonds totaling $25,500 and bound the case over to Superior Court.
Columbus Fire Investigator Daniel Irions said he was called to the Chevron gas station on Williams Road Saturday evening to investigate a burned 2015 Ford Escape.
On the scene, the male driver told Irions that he was taking his friend Aleysha back to her home in Atlanta and stopped at the Chevron to get gas. He said he parked at pump 7 and went inside to pay for gas, Irions said.
"When he came out, he saw her leaving to the rear of the store in a hurried manner," he said. "He stated that he thought this was strange, but he continued to pump gas."
Then he noticed smoke coming from the inside of the rental car, Irions said. There was a small fire on the driver's side of the backseat that the driver and bystanders extinguished, the investigator testified.
Officials removed an acrylic fingernail with multi-colored glitter from the passenger side of the backseat. Fire debris was collected at the scene and shipped off to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations crime lab for examination, Irions told the judge.
Irions said he searched the area and found a woman, later identified as Brooks, in a vacant field to the left of the gas station.
He asked her her name and she replied, "Erica Michelle Clark." The woman also gave a birth date of Jan. 29, 1995, but said she didn't have any identification on her, Irions testified.
"[The defendant] then stated, before being asked, that she had nothing to do with the damage of the car," he said. "When I asked her what damage, she stated 'the fire.'"
Moments later, the woman admitted that she started the car fire to avoid riding back to Atlanta with her friend.
"She stated that she didn't want to ride back to Atlanta with him, because they had gotten into an altercation," Irions said. "She didn't feel safe, so she used the lighter to set the rear seat on fire, took her belongs and left."
After transporting the suspect to the county jail, officials learned that the woman's name is actually Aleysha Shaiann Brooks and her real birth date is April 13, 1994.
— Sarah is a crime and safety reporter at The Ledger-Enquirer. You can contact her on Twitter at @SarahR_92.