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Woman suspected of starting fire at store in attempt to steal cart full of groceries

Posted at 12:44 PM, Sep 01, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — A woman is in the Salt Lake County Jail following an attempted arson and theft Monday night at a local grocery store.

It happened at the Smith’s Marketplace in Millcreek.

Investigators don’t know yet what the suspect’s motivation or mindset were at the time, but the fire didn’t last very long, no one was injured and she’s now in custody.

Unified police and firefighters responded to the store in the Canyon Rim area on a report of a fire.

Police arrested 37-year-old Ruth Marie Jefferson after witnesses said she had set a package of Ramen noodles on fire in one of the aisles.

The woman had tried to set additional fires as a literal smokescreen in an apparent attempt to leave the store with a cart full of groceries, police said. Investigators later learned she had no way of paying for the groceries.

People inside the store quickly doused the flames before firefighters arrived.

“Any large structure like this, with a higher occupancy, the last thing we want to hear is that it’s on fire,” said Ryan Love with Unified Fire Authority. “We just envision the worst and we’re planning for the worst, we’re planning for these evacuations to take place. Luckily there were no evacuations and the fire was out upon arrival but that’s always in the back of our minds, safety first.”

The scene was cleared after firefighters found no other fires.

Jefferson is facing charges of aggravated arson and aggravated robbery.