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Palo Alto woman arrested in connection with Fawn Fire in Shasta County

Original post made on Sep 24, 2021

Law enforcement officers from Cal Fire have arrested a Palo Alto woman they believe is responsible for igniting the Fawn Fire in Shasta County that had burned 5,850 acres as of Friday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 23, 2021, 3:33 PM

Comments (39)

Posted by It.is.what.it.is
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2021 at 11:26 am

It.is.what.it.is is a registered user.

Legislators ought to make arson a mandatory 40-year sentence. Need harsh punishment to deter lunatics. Fires cost money, lives, affects more than just one person.


Posted by Alan Singleton
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2021 at 11:49 am

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This sounds like a mental health issue as pyromania and arson are considered abnormal outlets.

If guilty, this person should be sequestered for mental observation/analysis and forced to pay for all of the related damages.

And if this financial outlay is beyond her means, she should be locked-up permanently.

No sympathy, empathy, or compassion towards her whatsoever.


Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2021 at 5:49 am

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This is why we have the word tragedy.
It’s a tragedy for the forest, habitat, animals, environment, people there and maybe homes.
It’s also a tragedy for this young woman who may have set it.


Posted by AnonymousPerson
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2021 at 10:03 am

AnonymousPerson is a registered user.

To the person that said "No sympathy, empathy, or compassion towards her whatsoever"...

And yet also stated "this sounds like a mental health issue"

How does this make sense?

Mental health issues can be very real illnesses. Meaning something is literally wrong with someone's brain. This is no different than someone having a physical illness like diabetes or anything else. How can you not have at least some understanding or empathy towards someone that is sick (whether mentally or physically)?

I looked up this person online, and her LinkedIn shows that she is very well educated but says that she is a "shaman". I don't know what that means, but it signals to me that something is off. I am not saying she is mentally ill, I have no clue. But if in fact she is, why would the focus not be on getting her treatment?

Someone suggested that if this "financial outlay" is beyond her means that she should be locked up permanently. That sounds incredibly harsh, especially if she was unable to control her behavior due to mental illness. I would think that the focus should be first on figuring out (if anything) is wrong with her mentally, then requiring treatment, and also requiring ongoing observation.

I am shocked at the way in which people are discussing mental illness here.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 25, 2021 at 11:03 am

Online Name is a registered user.

The New York Times and others report that the maximum sentence she can get is 9 years. That's absurdly low. She should spend the rest of her life compensating people for the damages they incurred.


Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2021 at 11:58 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

Arsonists usually are mentally ill. Why else would someone cause such destructive damage with no gain whatsoever. I have compassion for the mentally ill, but sadly a lot of people don't. They fear the unknown, and instead of erring on the side of compassion, they get angry.

I'm sure going through life with mental illness is very trying, and it's very trying for those of us on the receiving end. Mental illness (if she is mentally ill) doesn't excuse her criminal act, but it's a contributing factor.

I hope she gets the help she needs. As far as punishment, that's left up to the courts.


Posted by Arthur Billings
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 26, 2021 at 3:37 pm

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A majority of arsonists and pyromaniacs are suffering from an extreme obsessive compulsive disorder no different than any other type of mania.

Some are voyeurs who enjoy watching the infernos they have created from a distance while others simply 'cut and run' upon ignition.

As a retired clinical psychologist, I have treated such individuals and it is very difficult for some individuals to overcome these obsessions as each one has a private subliminal reason or 'trigger pount' for their pyromaniacal actions.

For some, recreational arson provides a sense of empowerment almost god-like.
Others see themselves as eradicating various demons by inferno.


Posted by Arthur Billings
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 26, 2021 at 3:59 pm

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correction...'trigger-point'.


Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 26, 2021 at 8:28 pm

eileen is a registered user.

Why do you think this woman was mentally ill?
She might have an agenda we are not aware of.

The police know...


Posted by Connie
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 27, 2021 at 4:59 am

Connie is a registered user.

75% of the U.S. prison population is mentally ill. The primary difference between them and Dr. Souverneva is the fact that they are poor, black or brown. Our society's compassion for the mentally ill is not colorblind.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2021 at 8:27 am

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This is a very sad story. This woman grew up here graduating from Paly. Whether she is mentally ill (as is possible), is very much a concern. Her family and friends must be overwrought. So sad for all.


Posted by Taylor Jeffries
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 27, 2021 at 9:29 am

Taylor Jeffries is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by gmdea1959
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2021 at 1:36 pm

gmdea1959 is a registered user.

hey I like to play with fire all the time would consider myself a pyro but I don't wake up one morning and decide hey why don't I start an arson fire and destroy people's property and scorch the earth because of stupidity. I don't care of her mental state its it was still no excuse for her to set the fire in the first place. Least she won't be getting out of jail anytime soon. They should make arson a felony with a steep fine. Then I think she will have plenty of time to think about what she did. I played with matches when I was less then five years but I never thought once to burn my house down. This woman has loose screws, elavator that doesn't quite go all the way up and one brick short of a full load. Prison is where she belongs. I have no tolerance for stupidity. She deserves the 2021 Darwin Award for being stupid.


Posted by AnonymousPerson
a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2021 at 2:23 pm

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For people to say "don't care of her mental state" is really rather disturbing. I know people with mental illness and untreated, it can cause some people do crazy things. I am not saying that mental illness is an excuse, or that this woman was for sure mentally ill (she could have also been on drugs or done this for some other reason), but I am saying that some mentally ill people cannot control themselves if they are not treated/medicated, and no this does not make them stupid nor does it mean they automatically deserve to be locked up for the rest of their lives.

Mental illness is literal damage to or within the brain. Have you ever broken your leg? Or known someone with cancer or heart disease? These are all physical illnesses that people take very seriously. And that we have compassion for. Would you suggest that someone with dementia that went off on their own and did something bad mean that they are stupid and deserve to be locked up? Mental illness is no different. It is very real and can cause people do behave in very strange ways. Out of their control.

This specific case aside, I am absolutely disgusted about what is being said about mentally ill people. For those that don't care or have compassion, be thankful that you are LUCKY enough to not have something wrong with your brain. Be thankful. I'm sure that whatever this woman was doing, her intent was probably not to create this raging wildfire, destroy homes and kill people. It may have been some twisted compulsion or belief that she had to do this to get rid of demons (as someone noted in a comment above).

And if she isn't deemed mentally ill, and did this on purpose to harm people and destroy homes, then yes in that case I have no compassion. Or less compassion if she was high on drugs (I would still have some empathy though, as I view drug addiction as a disease).


Posted by Marilyn Kendrick
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 27, 2021 at 2:32 pm

Marilyn Kendrick is a registered user.

@AnonymousPerson/a resident of another community

Mental illness is often used as an excuse by defense attorneys to lessen the sentencing.

Any questionable 'By reason of insanity' defense should be held to the highest scrutiny by the courts.


Posted by AnonymousPerson
a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2021 at 4:45 pm

AnonymousPerson is a registered user.

@Marilyn Kendrick

Mental illness is very real and unfortunately very common. Someone doesn't have to be "insane" to act irrationally. They could be manic (due to bipolar disorder), have schizophrenia, hear voices occasionally, or have compulsions that they can't control for whatever reason.

This woman grew up in a very solid community, and is highly educated (according to LinkedIn). But her profession on LinkedIn is listed as "Shaman". That alone signals that something is not quite right with her mentally. She may also be on drugs. Or perhaps is just randomly starting fires to damage structures and hurt people, but I hope they look into mental illness and other factors first, before assuming she is doing this with a rational and sound mind.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 28, 2021 at 7:25 am

Annette is a registered user.

Anyone who takes the path of arsonist is seriously troubled. Such people need help - for their sake and society's. But, how does being a Shaman equate to being not quite right mentally? I know only one Shaman so my experience is limited, but if there were more people like the Shaman I know, there would be far fewer problems. I sometimes think Palo Altans aren't comfortable with careers that are not mainstream. Suggested reading: The Horse Boy.


Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 28, 2021 at 10:13 am

eileen is a registered user.

Maybe this woman was influenced by this Ph.D. professor. Eco-Terrorism?

Web Link


Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 28, 2021 at 1:07 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

Anonymous Person -

Palo Alto is not perfect as some people would think it to be. Some highly (academic) intelligent people can be rather strange. There are some families in Palo Alto who are all the above. You also might consider the people who had their houses burned to the ground because of this young woman's actions. If someone burned my house down, I'd be really angry and want that person housed elsewhere for the rest of their life.


Posted by Pierce Jepsen
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 28, 2021 at 1:26 pm

Pierce Jepsen is a registered user.

-"That alone signals that something is not quite right with her mentally. She may also be on drugs."

^ Perhaps the wrong ones? Many mentally ill people opt not to take their prescribed meds because 'it doesn't make them feel right."

This in itself speaks volumes.


Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2021 at 1:47 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

How does anyone know if this woman was "mentally ill?" What if she was simply negligent? What if she was a eco-terrorist? What if she was one of those strange people who do evil in the hope of blaming it on something or someone else?

We shouldn't jump to conclusions.


Posted by MaryAnne Borgers
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 28, 2021 at 2:25 pm

MaryAnne Borgers is a registered user.

>> How does anyone know if this woman was "mentally ill?" What if she was simply negligent? What if she was a eco-terrorist? What if she was one of those strange people who do evil in the hope of blaming it on something or someone else?

We shouldn't jump to conclusions.


OK. We'll simply refer to it as an 'abnormal thought process' that manifests itself in wanton destruction and endangering the lives of others.

Terrorism and pyromaniac activities (whether jihadist or eco-related) is not sane and/or responsible adult behavior the last time I checked.


Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2021 at 2:47 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@MaryAnne Borgers: "Terrorism and pyromaniac activities (whether jihadist or eco-related) is not sane and/or responsible adult behavior the last time I checked."

That's not exactly true.

People steal because they want what others have. It (usually) isn't mental illness. Gang members drive by and shoot others because they see them as encroaching on their territory. People fly planes into buildings as an act of terror because they believe that they have some sort of moral or spiritual justification to do so. Evil men and women housed human beings in concentration camps and brutally killed millions of them because they followed orders.

Most heinous crimes or acts of terrorism are committed by individuals who believe that they are acting rationally. The worst villains are those who see themselves as heroes.

However, at this point, we have no idea if this woman actually started those fires OR that they were started intentionally. So, at this point, we shouldn't jump to conclusions.


Posted by MaryAnne Borgers
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 28, 2021 at 3:00 pm

MaryAnne Borgers is a registered user.

@Nayeli/a resident of Midtown

There are many crazed people who believe they are acting sanely or 'rationally' while carrying out heinous or destructive acts.

That doesn't make them sane or justify their actions against society as a whole.

Which is why we have prisons, mental institutions and Guantanamo Bay.

I doubt if any 'sane' American citizen would condone terrorism as a rational extension of one's personal belief system.


Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2021 at 11:34 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@MaryAnne Borgers - Unless you are privy to something that the rest of us (and the Palo Alto Online) is not, then the facts in this case aren't know yet. It's a long jump into darkness to go from what we read in this article to long diatribes about the tragedies of mental illness (when there is not yet any indication that mental illness even played a role).


Posted by Aron Tiernan
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2021 at 9:14 am

Aron Tiernan is a registered user.

The nature and description of this incident (including the suspect) suggests a mental health issue warranting both a comprehensive psychological examination and institutional sequestering if necessary.

The majority of crazed individuals tend to believe that everyone else is crazy and therein lies the problem as most ‘sane’ people who share these sentiments do not ordinarily act out in such a manner.

Then again and despite her being a worldly shaman, the fire could have been started by a smoldering and discarded cigarette butt.


Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2021 at 10:02 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

Other news organizations are reporting "possibly mentally disturbed" and "possibly mentally unstable." Alleged wouldn't make any sense.

She told law enforcement she was "camping to Canada" and she was thirsty and lit a puddle of water on fire that contained "bear urine."

Her lawyer entered a plea "possible mental health crisis" and "possible alcohol/drug abuse." She has a history of alcohol/drug arrests.

My speculation? A mentally ill woman self medicating with alcohol and drugs. Like another poster mentioned, they do it all the time.

She's suspected in several other fires - a serial arsonist. Very sad for everyone involved, especially those who lost their homes.


Posted by Larry Ferguson
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 29, 2021 at 10:26 am

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All things considered, it is somewhat reassuring to learn that PG&E oversights and climate change were not the prime causal factors in this disastrous fire but rather a self-professed 'shaman' camping in Canada and trying to ignite bear urine.

> "There are many crazed people who believe they are acting sanely or 'rationally'..."

^ Sounds reasonable given today's 'social climate' and shamans are no exception.


Posted by Philomena Gladstone
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2021 at 11:57 am

Philomena Gladstone is a registered user.

Given the details of the Fawn fire including 7,544 acres still burning with only 10% containment and 100 buildings destroyed + the displacement of local residents, this arsonist (regardless of any mental illness issues) should be put away permanently if found guilty of starting these fires.

Sane or insane, there is a penalty for wanton and brazen arson and I am amazed at the sympathizers here who are defending this woman's alleged rationality and purported cause.

What is with some of these Palo Alto residents and their 'soft on crime' mentality?

BTW...our house burned down and we are now homeless thanks to this so-called thirsty shaman.


Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2021 at 12:04 pm

ndn is a registered user.

Y'all who will never have dementia or Alzheimer that may prompt you to do strange and/or harmful actions, congratulations! You will never need understanding of your disease, compassion or civil confinement. Let us throw you in jail for a good measure of how to avoid your actions?

Souverneva has a history of the following: patchy, infrequent, unstable job or schooling suggesting increasing difficulty of adaptation, descending to a reality disturbed behaviour to believing she is in cohorts with good and evil spirits.

She tells police that she was trying to boil bear's urine because she was dehydrated. There is no evidence of pyromania at this point, only lack of being in touch with reality.

Punishment by jail doesn't offer any cure, respite or protection for the public if someone is in the throes of madness, but civil confinement would.


A verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity is actually extremely difficult to obtain. But one hopes that the suffering that Souveneva's actions seems to have inflicted upon others be a recognition of the effects of illness and prompts us to ask for support for better treatments and outcomes.

Mental illness is body based, not caught in a cloud. No illness has ever been totally eradicated, but some came close. For that we need commitment to understand causes, effect and remedies if any.
The world and our lives are certainly not perfect, but the disturbing vitriol
and denial of the reality of mental illness is in tune with some of the written observations I read.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 29, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Where are her parents? Who's going to pay for the fire prevention and/or compensate the many people whose homes have been destroyed? The number of homes destroyed was 85 a few days ago and is likely more now.


Posted by Philomena Gladstone
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2021 at 12:15 pm

Philomena Gladstone is a registered user.

- "she was trying to boil bear's urine because she was dehydrated. There is no evidence of pyromania at this point, only lack of being in touch with reality."

^ It is obvious that you are not an outdoors person. Bears do not pee in puddles. They dribble leaving a trail of urine.

And just how did this individual know
for sure that she had actually encountered and accurately identified bear urine?

It took matches (or a lighter) to start this fire and chances are the flames ignited some dry leaves or downed brush culminating in a raging forest fire.

Now if she agrees to rebuild our home and replace its contents we'll talk but until then condoning an arsonist with mental illness is unacceptable to those who have suffered at the hands of this mentally disturbed shaman who is no wood nymph but rather a crazed individual whose personal problems and issues should not drag others into the equation.

No sympathy whatsoever...just contempt.


Posted by Bill Harrington
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2021 at 12:31 pm

Bill Harrington is a registered user.

Bears do not urinate like humans. They rarely pull down their pants (or dress) and pee behind the bushes leaving puddles of potential drinking water.

This 'soft on perpetrator' mentality on the part of a few misguided Palo Altans is questionable at best.

If their expensive homes had been burned down under the same curcumstances, they'd be the first ones clamoring for police apprehension and jurisprudence.

Only in Palo Alto where shamanism is apparently considered a profession and mental illness a acceptable state of mind.


Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2021 at 2:16 pm

ndn is a registered user.

Philomena Gladstone,

I did NOT say "- "she was trying to boil bear's urine because she was dehydrated."

WHAT I SAID WAS "SHE TELLS POLICE that she was trying to boil bear's urine because she was dehydrated."

Philomena also wrote: "
^ It is obvious that you are not an outdoors person.

Thank you Philomena-you made my point about mental illness since I am in fact a hiker despite your unfounded belief:
for the past almost 2 years I have lived in four thousand acres of forest in the wild of upstate California, and I have been a hiker all my life in several states and abroad besides a proud member of the ADK.

It is easy to see for those who are midly mentally ill that reality is fabricated in their minds, it's their truth.. Why is then so difficult for some to accept that if they can twist out of shape even a simple sentence
others may believe that they are boiling bears' urine even if in reality it's just muddy water?


Posted by Lucinda Decker
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 29, 2021 at 2:46 pm

Lucinda Decker is a registered user.

According to cultural anthropologists, a shaman is a tribal spiritual leader who can see into the future and travel to other dimensions.

Perhaps this person actually thought she was in Canada and seeking out her spirit guide, in this particular case a bear.

The scent of fresh bear urine usually indicates that a bear is within close proximity and this could also create a dangerous life-threatening scenario especially if it was a mother bear with young cubs.

But of course the shaman could not forsee this possibility.

In any event, the final disposition of this incident will be in the hands of the court and any mental health experts called in to testify.

If she is found to be sane and dutifully bound to whatever her shaman beliefs tell her, we are talking serious prison time and civil remuneration.

As a second year law student, an insanity plea would be most beneficial in terms of treatment and a potentially shorter time under psychiatric incarceration.


Posted by Nora Jensen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 29, 2021 at 3:49 pm

Nora Jensen is a registered user.

° "It is easy to see for those who are midly mentally ill that reality is fabricated in their minds, it's their truth.."

This is too vague to be a legitimate excuse or explanation.

Everyone lives in their own private world of hopes, dreams, expectations and anticipation BUT wanton destruction by fire (and other deadly forces) does not easily fall into this category.

To justify the actions of a troubled individual as either a rational thought process or a personal concept of reality does not hold water.

The REAL world does not operate or survive under those parameters.


Posted by Robin Layne
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 30, 2021 at 9:46 am

Robin Layne is a registered user.

Perhaps it's best to let an impartial jury comprised of Shasta County residents decide the outcome of this case as it does not involve or concern most Palo Altans and residents of Santa Clara County unless they owned property that was ravaged by the Fawn Fire.

It is highly unlikely that a 'shaman defense' will hold up in court regardless of the judicial district and the bear urine alibi will only make matters worse.


Posted by Lacy W.
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2021 at 2:15 pm

Lacy W. is a registered user.

The arsonist regardless of her mental state or professed shamanism should be held accountable for any and all restitution related to this fire OR locked-up permanently in a mental institution.

There is no room at the inn for those who create more problems for others to deal with.

And no sympathy for these types of individuals who wreak havoc under the guise of mental illness especially if they are not making any conscious effort to curtail it.


Posted by Paul Blackburn
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 1, 2021 at 9:39 am

Paul Blackburn is a registered user.

>"Perhaps it's best to let an impartial jury comprised of Shasta County residents decide the outcome of this case as it does not involve or concern most Palo Altans and residents of Santa Clara County unless they owned property that was ravaged by the Fawn Fire."

^ Another option...allow a jury of her peers (i.e. other shamans and sympathetic/amateur Palo Alto 'mental health experts') decide her fate?


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