- Associated Press - Saturday, May 13, 2017

PALMER, Alaska (AP) - An Alaska couple accused of starting a 2015 wildfire was found not guilty.

The verdicts for Greg Imig and his wife, Amy Dewitt, verdict were announced at the Palmer Courthouse on Friday, KTVA-TV reported (https://bit.ly/2pvCLUg). The state had suspected the pair from Anchorage of starting the June 2015 Sockeye Fire that burned over 11 square miles (28.49 square kilometers) and destroyed 55 homes in southeastern Alaska.

The couple had been facing 12 charges each for burning without a permit, property-damage crimes and reckless endangerment. They were found not guilty on all counts.

The state argued the couple started the fire after they failed to put out a burning pile at their cabin near Parks Highway. Dewitt admitted on Monday that her husband and their son had built three illegal burn pits on the property on the same weekend that Sockeye Fire started, but she insisted that they had put out the fires completely.

A private fire investigator who took the stand on Monday found the state’s investigation into the fire insufficient. “Based on the documentation of evidence that was provided to us, we felt there was not enough information to arrive at a conclusion,” Chris Warren said.

Dewitt called the trial wasteful and unneeded after she left the courtroom. “We, too, lost our property and possession in the Willow fire and combined with this trial, it has been very costly for us,” she said in a written statement she read Friday.

John Skidmore, director of the Criminal Division with the Alaska Department of Law, said the department respects the jury’s verdict.

Some victims of the fire, such as Jaimee High, said they were not ready to accept the decision. “For me, the closure aspect was being able to look them in the eye and for my grieving aspect, but we’ll see. Deep down, from what I know, they are still guilty, and I just have to go with that,” High said.

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Information from: KTVA-TV, https://www.ktva.com

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