Date: Fri, 20 Nov 2009 08:37:13 -0500
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Subject: OU Employee Charged With Arson In Chemistry Building

OU Employee Charged With Arson
Susan K. Lauterbach Accused Of Setting Fires In Chemistry Building
POSTED: 11:05 am CST November 19, 2009
UPDATED: 10:04 pm CST November 19, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. -- A University of Oklahoma employee has been charged with arson in connection with three campus fires.
Susan K. Lauterbach, 46, was formally charged in Cleveland County District Court on Tuesday, accused of setting three fires on campus since Sept. 8.
Cleveland County Assistant District Attorney Richard Sitzman said she was charged with first-degree arson because the fires had been set in an occupied building.
Lauterbach was released on $75,000 bond and is expected back in court in December. Each charge carries a maximum 35-year sentence.
According to information in a probable cause affidavit, Lauterbach set a fire on Sept. 8 in a closet inside the Chemistry Annex building, Room 326. She is also accused of setting a fire on Sept. 10 in a recycle bin at the chemistry building and yet another on Sept. 11 in a stairwell at the chemistry building.
An investigator said the first fire was set by lighting paper towels on fire inside a locked teaching assistant's closet. Officials said this fire caused $13,000 in damage.
The investigator noted that Lauterbach was the primary person assigned to lab safety but that her "lack of interpersonal skills had been specifically criticized and noted during her personnel evaluation."
Specifically, investigators said, Lauterbach had an adversarial relationship with her supervisor. In an e-mail dated Aug. 18, Lauterbach allegedly wrote, "I'm not fighting him anymore. If the building burns, it's not my problem."
Investigators said she had requested extra compensation for her efforts to clean and restore Room 326 in the Chemistry Annex Building after a previous fire on Oct. 8, 2008. Because that request was denied, investigators believe this room was targeted by Lauterbach.
The second fire was lit inside a blue plastic paper-recycle container in the hallway outside of room No. 304 in the chemistry building. A teaching assistant noticed the fire, and another chemistry faculty member found a piece of burned newspaper inside the recycle bin.
After the second incident, Lauterbach allegedly tried to interfere with the investigation process, interrupting interview efforts between the university's fire inspector and a chemistry faculty member, investigators said.
The third fire was set inside a blue plastic paper-recycle bin inside a stairwell that connects the Chemistry Annex building and the chemistry building itself. A faculty member found the fire and discovered burned papers inside the recycle bin.
The affidavit indicates that Lauterbach was angry with the chemistry department for not including her in building safety conversations and that she felt unappreciated and undercompensated.
Lauterbach was fired from the university this week. She had been on paid administrative leave until charges were filed in the case.
She did not respond to attempts to reach her on Thursday.

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