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Davis Journal

Centerville woman recounts traumatic event when intruder burned house down

Aug 02, 2022 01:16PM ● By Becky Ginos

Beth and Clarence Newman’s home was destroyed after an intruder started the house on fire. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle/fire photo courtesy of CPD

CENTERVILLE—It’s going to take a while for Beth Newman to trust again. Beth and her husband Clarence are trying to make sense of a complete stranger entering their home, dumping gasoline and burning it down. 

“If I hear a sudden noise it scares me,” said Beth. “I’m smelling gas everywhere or frightened by a hospital employee. It’s stressful stuff that I’m going to have to work through.”

Beth recounted the events of the bizarre incident that took place in the afternoon on July 21.

“Our garage door opens into the hallway,” she said. “On the right side is an office and I was in there doing some work. The door opened and someone walked in and said ‘hey.’ I didn’t recognize the voice, then I saw a man with a gas can. I said ‘what are you doing? Get out of here.’ He said, ‘I’m going to burn you and your house down.’”

He left through the garage and went to the vehicles in the driveway, said Beth. “He tried to start my husband’s truck. I called the police then he came back in and said ‘where are you?’ He slammed into me and punched me in the mouth to get the phone out of my hands. It knocked me into the desk.”

He started to pour gas on the carpet, she said. “He tried to light it with a lighter but it wouldn’t light. Then he went into the kitchen and started a fire there. I could hear the crackle and see smoke.”

Beth said Clarence was in the back bedroom. “He doesn’t hear well and I realized he wasn’t hearing me. The house was on fire and I needed to get him out but I was afraid to direct my voice in his direction because he’d (intruder) had only seen me. My dad lives downstairs and he’s 83. He hears me but it doesn’t register what I’m saying.”

The man moved toward the bedroom and was looking as he went down the hallway and was going in where Clarence was, she said. “I yelled but Clarence doesn’t know what I’m saying. The man slammed me into a wall and punched me and knocked me down. He goes into where Clarence was and pours gas in the bedroom and threw it on Clarence.”

Clarence had a 48 ounce mug and he took that and threw it at him, said Beth. “Then he punched Clarence in the face. They came into the hallway and he shoved him down and kicked him and felt his pockets and said to me ‘where’s your money?’ I said ‘I don’t have any.’ But he took my purse that was on the bed.” 

Beth said she has a hip replacement and couldn’t get off the floor. “I was wondering how I was going to get up because I could see the smoke. I believe heavenly beings lifted me up. Clarence couldn’t walk so he had to scoot 15 feet to where the stairs were.”

Downstairs Beth found her dad sitting in a chair. “He was trying to register what the panic was,” she said. “I grabbed my dad’s phone and called 911 again because I thought they should have been here by now. I got my dad up and going out the bedroom door and Clarence and I got out.”

There are two doorways before you actually get outside, said Beth. “The westside was the hottest but I knew we needed to go out. My dad was frozen in place and a first responder helped me pry his fingers off the door and got us out.”

Beth said they were taken to the hospital to get checked out since both had been punched. “I had a brain bleed and was transferred to LDS hospital and then to IHC. I was given a (priesthood) blessing and the next morning the CTC scan showed it was gone.”

Now they’re trying to process it all, she said. “My dad had to go into assisted living while we’re healing and dealing with it when something like this happens.”

The community has really stepped up, said Beth. “The neighborhood offered all kinds of help. It’s amazing how generous and kind they are. We have to start rebuilding our life. We’re in a two bedroom suite at a hotel trying to figure out what the next step is.”

The Newmans not only lost their home but everything in it. “My mother’s urn was in the house and when my father died we were going to spread their ashes on Ben Lomond peak,” she said. “There are pictures and other things you can’t replace. That’s going to be hard.”

Clarence built the house 35 years ago, said Beth. “He always said he’d live there until he died. He’s intent on rebuilding it and living there until he dies.” 

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Newmans at Donations can also be made at any America First Credit Union to the Bethany Schmucker, Clarence Newman account. λ