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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 23, 2015

Woman Sentenced for Role in 2001 Arson That Killed Her 15-year-old Son

St. Louis, MO - SANDRA KAY BRYANT, St. Louis County, was sentenced today for her participation in setting fire to her family’s home in Florissant, Missouri, on November 16, 2001.  Bryant’s 15-year-old son became trapped in the basement and was killed during the fire.  Bryant pled guilty in March to one count of aiding and abetting the use of fire to commit mail fraud and unequivocally acknowledged and confirmed her participation in the arson scheme.

Bryant appeared today for sentencing before United States District Court Judge Audrey G. Fleissig.  Judge Fleissig imposed a prison sentence of 96 months and awarded Bryant credit for the 50 months she spent in jail during the state-level prosecution.

The 2001 fire was originally the subject of state prosecution in which Sandra Bryant was charged with murder by arson.  During the state trial, Bryant challenged her confession to detectives that detailed her involvement in the fire.  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.

Because the State was unable to proceed with its prosecution of Bryant, federal officials took over the investigation, and in October of 2011 a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging both Bryant and her ex-husband, Steven Kemper, for the 2001 arson.  Steven Kemper pled guilty in 2013 and was sentenced to 70 months in prison.

Following Bryant’s sentencing this morning, U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan complimented the teamwork and persistence by the law enforcement agencies in staying the course on this long and difficult investigation and bringing both responsible parties to justice.

The investigation into this fire was initiated by the St. 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 Saint Louis County Prosecutor’s Office also provided significant assistance.

Updated July 23, 2015