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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Missouri

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 5, 2015

Woman Pleads Guilty To Role In 2001 Arson That Killed Her 15-Year-Old Son

St. Louis, MO - SANDRA KAY BRYANT, Saint Louis County, pled guilty this afternoon and admitted setting fire to her family’s home at in Florissant, Missouri, on November 16, 2001.  Bryant’s 15-year old son, Zachariah Andrew Kemper, became trapped in the basement and was killed during the fire.  Bryant pled guilty to one-count of aiding and abetting the use of fire to commit mail fraud.  She appeared before United States District Court Judge Audrey G. Fleissig to enter her guilty plea.  A jury trial had been set for March 9.

The 2001 fire was originally the subject of state charges in which Sandra Bryant was charged with murder by arson.  During the ensuing trial, the judge declared a mistrial after ruling that certain evidence relating to a polygraph examination indicating deception by Bryant had mistakenly been shown to the jury.  The Missouri Supreme Court ultimately held that because the mistrial was declared over the defense objection, state prosecutors were barred from retrying the defendant in state court because of the United States Constitution’s "double jeopardy" provision.  During the state trial, Bryant challenged her confession to detectives that detailed her involvement in the fire.  With today’s guilty plea, Bryant unequivocally acknowledged and confirmed her participation in the arson scheme.

The federal indictment charged both Bryant and her ex-husband, Steven Kemper, for their involvement in the 2001 arson.  On July 3, 2013, Steven Kemper, pled guilty to the same charge.  Kemper’s sentencing has been set for April 8, 2015, at 1:30 p.m.  Bryant’s sentencing has been set for June 11, 2015, at 2:00 p.m.  Each defendant faces up to 10 years imprisonment.

This case was originally investigated by the Saint Louis County Police Department.  The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives took up the investigation after the Missouri Supreme Court decision barring the retrial by state prosecutors.  The St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office also provided significant assistance. 

Updated March 19, 2015