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    Mar 2001

    Post Boca Raton Woman jailed in Arson Attempt

    Woman accused of trying to kill self, mom jailed
    By Stephanie Slater

    Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

    Tuesday, April 12, 2005

    After threatening to kill herself and her elderly, disabled mother last week, a suburban Boca Raton woman grabbed a handful of paper towels, placed them on the carpet next to her mother's bed and set them on fire, authorities said.

    Mary Lou Campbell then blocked the door as her son's girlfriend tried to rescue the 86-year-old woman. When the girlfriend, Erin O'Donnell, ran out of the house to call 911, Campbell ripped the smoke alarm out of the ceiling, got in her car and headed toward Mississippi.

    That's when O'Donnell said she rushed back into the house on Southwest 65th Way, stomped out the fire and pulled Martha Painter from her smoke-filled bedroom. Painter, who has Alzheimer's disease, was not injured.

    On Sunday, Campbell, 66, turned herself in to authorities on felony attempted murder and arson charges.

    "Everybody just wants her to get help," O'Donnell said Monday.

    O'Donnell, 43, said Campbell was feeling the strain of losing her job with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and caring for her mother full time. The afternoon of April 3, she tried to attack her son, Thomas Campbell, with a vacuum cleaner, O'Donnell said. After he left the house, she started the fire.

    "I wanted to get Martha out, but Mary Lou wouldn't let me," O'Donnell said. "She said she and Martha would be dying together."

    In the days that followed, Campbell withdrew $2,500 cash from a bank in Kissimmee and booked a hotel room in Gulfport, Miss., with her American Express credit card, according to a sheriff's report. She called her mother's home dozens of times and was in Texas when she decided to come back to Palm Beach County, O'Donnell said.

    "She came back for her mother.... She wanted to say goodbye," O'Donnell said.

    Campbell is being held without bail in the Palm Beach County Jail.
    Last edited by captstanm1; 05-01-2005 at 03:53 PM.
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