Mother, son charged in fire at Stockton stores

Friday, March 20, 2009 | 11:12 a.m. CDT

STOCKTON — A mother and her son face charges in an arson fire that destroyed three businesses and an empty store in a strip mall in the small town of Stockton.

Eighteen-year-old Jacob T. Smith and 39-year-old Dina R. Larson, both of Stockton, were charged Thursday in Cedar County with counts including second-degree burglary and second-degree arson.

A third person is in custody but not yet charged in the blaze Wednesday that gutted a tobacco store, pizza shop and a video store.

A probable cause statement says Smith and Larson admitted in separate interviews that they broke into stores at the mall, stole items and set the fire. Investigators served a search warrant at the family's home and recovered cigarettes, jewelry and a bank bag that allegedly were stolen from the mall.

Investigators have said that graffiti painted at the scene was derogatory toward gays; the owner is openly gay. The statement does not mention whether the fire was a hate crime.

Prosecutors sought bond of $25,000 for Smith and $100,000 for Larson.

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