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Woman charged with trying kill children in fire pleads guilty

Published May 15. 2019 12:08PM

An Albrightsville woman, who police said set her home on fire in an attempt to kill her children, entered a guilty plea in Carbon County court on Tuesday afternoon.

Edith Keen, 42, pleaded guilty, but mentally ill, to one county of arson, for an incident on Feb. 9, 2018. She also pleaded to one count of simple assault, but mentally ill, for an incident on Feb. 12, 2017.

In the Feb. 9 incident, Kidder Township police charged her with eight felonies and three misdemeanors related to a fire that took place at her home on Tanglewood Road, Holiday Pocono Development.

She was charged with two felony counts each of criminal attempt to commit criminal homicide, aggravated assault, and endangering the welfare of children; one count each of arson/endangering persons, strangulation; and two counts of misdemeanor recklessly endangering another person, and one count terroristic threats. All the charges were dropped in exchange for the arson plea.

On Feb. 9 township police received a report of a possible mental health issue on Tanglewood Road. While investigating the report, police received a dispatch for a dwelling fire at that address. When officers arrived, they were met by Keen. She was the subject of the mental health investigation and was taken into custody.

Officers witnessed a large amount of smoke coming from the residence. Two officers then grabbed fire extinguishers from their patrol cars and entered the residence. They believed that Keen’s daughter might still be inside the residence.

Upon entering the residence, officers encountered heavy smoke and fire. They were able to extinguish the fire and look for the juvenile. They were advised from an officer outside that the juvenile went to a neighbor’s house.

Officers determined through an investigation that Keen deliberately set fires in the residence over the past couple days with her children inside.

She was taken to Lehighton hospital for evaluation.

In the first incident leading to the simple assault plea she had been placed in the county’s Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition probation program. She was revoked from it when the second incident occurred. In that incident she was arrested by police who responded to a report of an intoxicated woman causing a disturbance.

Keen was accused of assaulting officer John Pruitte Jr. while being taken into custody. In exchange for that plea a aggravated assault count was dropped.

Mental health

Prior to Keen entering her pleas, Judge Joseph J. Matika conducted a hearing on her plea to guilty but mentally ill.

Dr. William Anzalone, a psychologist, said he had examined Keen on three separate occasions at the county prison, where she has been held since her arrest. He described the tests he gave her, and his conclusion that her mental health issues were sufficient to meet the standards in Pennsylvania to plead guilty but mentally ill.

Among her issues were schizophrenia and anxiety. He said, however, when she is on her prescribed medication she has no issues. Anzalone said on the day of the fire she was not on her medications and she said the devil was talking to her. He added that while in prison she is back on her medications and understands what is going on.

Defense attorney Matthew J. Mottola, of the public defender’s office, said he has spoken with Keen on numerous occasions at the prison and she understands what has happened and what she is doing in court.

Based on Anzalone’s report, Matika said Keen was mentally ill and could enter a guilty plea but mentally ill.

Anzalone’s report also indicated that Keen might be best treated in a residential facility that deals with such mental disorders.

The arson charge is a felony and carries a minimum sentence of somewhere between 3 and 12 months in prison.

Matika deferred sentencing so the court can determine an avenue of treatment for Keen.

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