5 years in prison for woman convicted of setting fire to Greenfield apartment after 'a breakup'

Mai Lor

GREENFIELD -- A woman convicted of setting fire to her ex-boyfriend's apartment building the day before Valentine's Day in 2017 has been sentenced to prison.

It happened at an apartment complex near 100th and Oklahoma around 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 13, 2017. Five people had to be rescued from balconies, and a Red Cross shelter had to be set up for residents from the 40-unit apartment complex because the entire building was shut down after this fire. Prosecutors said this could've been much worse, because the suspect, Mai Lor, originally planned to gun down the mother of her ex-boyfriend's children and the kids.

Lor, 28, in October of 2018 pleaded guilty to two charges -- one count of arson of a building without owner's consent and first degree recklessly endangering safety.

In court on Thursday, Jan. 17, Lor was sentenced to serve five years in prison and four years extended supervision on the arson charge, with credit for 658 days time served, and five years in prison and four years extended supervision on the recklessly endangering safety charge -- to be served concurrently, for a total of five years in prison and four years extended supervision.

According to a criminal complaint, first responders found thick, black smoke coming from an upper-level unit at the building on that February morning. A Greenfield police officer found two people trapped on one balcony, and a child trapped on another. Another woman and a child came out onto the balcony -- and there were then a total of five people trapped on the balconies in the back of the building. Five people were rescued from third-story balconies and two people had to jump from the second-story to escape the fire. The building was uninhabitable after the fire, as there was extensive damage, estimated at $600,000.

Investigators determined the fire started in a second-floor hallway.

The complaint indicates two days after the fire, investigators were contacted by a man and his nephew, who handed over letters that referenced this fire. Two were postmarked from Illinois, and two from Iowa -- dated Feb. 13 -- the date of the fire. The letters had "purple lipstick kiss marks" on the envelopes, and they were addressed to Mai Lor's ex-boyfriend. The letters addressed the fire, and a woman who has children with Lor's ex-boyfriend -- ages 4 and 8. One of the children previously had a leg amputated, and had to be carried out of the apartment building after the fire because her prosthetic leg was not on.

Investigators spoke with Lor's ex-boyfriend, who said he believed Lor had written the letters. He said he had broken up with Lor after he found evidence she'd been prostituting herself on a website.

"This is quite an extreme circumstance -- a breakup. He had her blocked on Facebook and she would change her name and send messages," Detective Sgt. Eric Lindstrom with the Greenfield Police Department said.

The handwriting on the letters was compared with a handwritten complaint made by Lor at the Brookfield Police Department, and the handwriting appeared to be the same, the complaint says.

Lor was arrested on March 15, 2017, and she was interviewed by police. According to the complaint, Lor admitted to setting the fire "with the purpose of hurting (her ex-boyfriend)."

Lor said she had purchased a firearm with the intention of going to the apartment building to "kill (her ex-boyfriend's) children" in an effort to "hurt (her ex-boyfriend)." Lor said one plan involved "knocking on the door and shooting (the mother of her ex-boyfriend's children) and then the children. She also said she'd researched the children's school schedules "to see when she could catch and ambush the children."

Lor said at one point, she went to the apartment building to "check to make sure (the mother of her boyfriend's children's) name was still on the mailbox" at the building. While there, she decided that "she would hurt herself more by shooting the children" so she decided to "burn the building." She said she grabbed some gasoline from her vehicle, put it in a water bottle, and then poured it on the doormat and door to the apartment unit. She then lit it with a match, and left the building.

"When detectives arrested the suspect, she still had similar type bottles she used to commit the arson full of gasoline still in her vehicle," Detective Sgt. Lindstrom said.

Lor said she then drove to Colorado and stayed there for a week, before heading back to Wisconsin.

According to the complaint, she admitted to writing the letters that were eventually handed over to police.