Scott Daugherty, The Virginian-Pilot, October 10, 2019
A Chesapeake woman denies trying to kill her and her boyfriend’s five children in a house fire.
“Why would I want them dead?” Monica Perkins told investigators, according to court documents. “They are my source of income.”
Perkins — who state prosecutors declined to charge in connection with the July 7, 2018, blaze — was sentenced Thursday to nine years in prison for an unrelated robbery spree.
Neighbors used a ladder to rescue four children — ages 3, 4, 7 and 10 — from the second-floor of a home in the 800 block of Wright Ave. Firefighters later entered the building to save a 6-month-old baby from a first-floor bedroom.
Prosecutors said the baby suffered “serious injuries due to the lack of oxygen.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Butler, however, said earlier this year in court he had information Perkins started the fire in an effort to “reset” her life. He said she was heard a few days before the fire saying something like, “How do you pick which one of your kids get to live?”
Butler said Perkins’ boyfriend, Willey Brooks Jr., saw the stove was on before they left the house the day of the fire and turned it off. But later, he said, Brooks helped Perkins make up a story about his brother being in the house and some miscommunication in an effort to keep her out of trouble.
Butler’s comments led Chesapeake police to open an investigation into the fire. Senior Police Officer Leo Kosinski, a department spokesman, said the probe was subsequently closed without the filing of charges.
Chesapeake Commonwealth’s Attorney Nancy Parr explained the “investigation, including witnesses’ statements, did not support charges of arson or of leaving the children alone.”
Perkins and Brooks pleaded guilty earlier this year to multiple felonies relating to a series of three grocery store robberies last year in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Brooks was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his larger role in the scheme.
According to court documents filed with their respective guilty pleas, the couple participated directly in the first robbery. On Sept. 25, 2018, they served as lookouts inside a Food Lion on Bainbridge Boulevard in Chesapeake. At Brooks’ direction, others then entered the store, approached an employee and demanded money.
Brooks was arrested on unrelated charges shortly after the robbery, but stayed involved in the scheme while behind bars. Perkins spoke with him by phone, referring to their co-conspirators as “minions” and expressing concerns about whether they could trust them.
Bird argued Perkins deserved a 10 year sentence in part because she has a documented history of “homicidal tendencies towards humans and animals.”
Over the years, she has been hospitalized for threatening to stab a family member with a knife and admitted to abusing a dog out of anger, Bird said. “Reports” also indicate she killed a cat in a dryer and has “engaged in fire setting behavior three times,” she said.
Despite such a difficult childhood, Perkins largely stayed out of legal trouble as an adult, Foley said. He added that she now realizes the error of her ways and is interested in availing herself in prison of intensive counseling, mental health treatment and vocational training.