Fury, flames, fleeing figure in charges again Minnesota woman
MINNEAPOLIS A suicidal Apple Valley woman explained that she torched her home and doused her husband with gasoline because she wanted him to utter her name and say that he loved her, according to charges filed Wednesday. Rhonda L. Arkley, 49, was...
A suicidal Apple Valley woman explained that she torched her home and doused her husband with gasoline because she wanted him to utter her name and say that he loved her, according to charges filed Wednesday.
Rhonda L. Arkley, 49, was charged with first-degree arson, second-degree assault and fleeing police in connection with the Dec. 2. incident at the couple's home in the 4700 block of W. 142nd Street.
Arkley, who in 2002 ran for the Minnesota Senate as a DFLer, had lost a grown son in November to a fatal heroin overdose.
Authorities said Wednesday that they don't know if his death played into her rampage three weeks ago.
According to the complaint:
Arkley's husband, Stuart Arkley, said he was resting in a lower-level bedroom when his wife entered and threw gasoline on him, hurled a lit oil lamp at him and hit him in the head with an exercise weight.
"You've wrecked my life. I don't feel like living anymore," he quoted Rhonda Arkley as yelling. "You don't deserve to live, either."
The two struggled at the front door as Stuart Arkley attempted to flee and his wife, holding a steak knife, yelled, "I only want to kill myself."
Rhonda Arkley then grabbed a 5-gallon can and spread gasoline around the house, saying, "I don't want anyone else to see this house." He tried to stop her, but she threw more gas on him and lit a piece of paper. He fled out a back window to a neighbor's home and called 911.
When police arrived, they found the home ablaze and Rhonda Arkley in a locked car in the driveway, stabbing her chest with a screwdriver.
Arkley drove off. Eagan police put down stop spikes on Pilot Knob Road near Cliff Road, disabling her vehicle. Officers approached and saw her again stabbing herself in the chest with a screwdriver, using a hammer to drive it in.
In a statement to police, Rhonda Arkley confessed to setting the fire, dousing her husband with gasoline, hitting him with the exercise weight and trying to kill herself, authorities said.
She added, according to the complaint, that "she never intended to kill her husband but only wanted him to say her name and that he loved her."
Stuart Arkley was treated for burns at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
Rhonda Arkley, also treated for significant burns, is in a "secure hospital setting" and upon release will be taken to the Dakota County jail, said County Attorney James Backstrom.
"It's a very sad and tragic situation, particularly around the holidays," Backstrom said.
In mid-November, Rhonda Arkley's 22-year-old son was found dead in his bedroom at the home, according to police. An autopsy determined that Collin Van Dyk died of a heroin overdose.
"Obviously, this is a very troubled woman," Backstrom said, adding that any contention of mental instability won't prevent her from being held accountable.
"Certainly, a lot of individuals unfortunately who are charged with crimes have mental health problems," Backstrom said. "It doesn't excuse criminal behavior. It's a very small number of cases where criminal behavior is actually excused because of mental illness -- it's only when someone doesn't understand right from wrong or the nature of their acts at the time they're doing it."
It's fortunate, he added, that her husband was able to flee out the window, that a 17-year-old son who lived with them was at school and that Rhonda Arkley did not die in the fire she set that morning, though she was seriously burned.
During her unsuccessful 2002 state Senate campaign, Arkley described herself on a website as a part-time honors student pursuing an English degree at Metropolitan State University, as an unpaid political lobbyist and as married with four children.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.