Saturday, December 2, 2023

Mother accused of arson considering plea after possible fire accelerant found in Virginia Beach home

Monica Lamping, 30, was charged with arson in connection to the Jan. 22 fire of her Sullivan Boulevard home. (Adrienne Mayfield/Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH — A Virginia Beach mother accused of burning down her rental home before fleeing to North Carolina with her children is considering a plea agreement, court documents show.

Monica Claire Lamping, 30, was charged with the arson of an occupied dwelling on April 3. The felony offense carries a sentence of between five years and life in prison if she’s found guilty.

The charge came more than two months after the Jan. 22 fire that sparked a three-day search for Lamping and her children.

Monica Lamping has been charged with one count of arson in connection to a January fire that burned down her Virginia Beach home. (Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office)

Lamping was scheduled to appear in Virginia Beach General District Court for a preliminary hearing on Thursday, but the hearing was continued until Aug. 3. Court documents show the continuance is due to Lamping’s consideration of a plea agreement and her defense attorney’s continued review of evidence.

That evidence includes wood flooring taken from the home, located at 4932 Sullivan Blvd. A forensic analysis of the flooring showed that some samples contained medium petroleum distillate, an ignitable substance that can be found in charcoal starter fluid.

The early-morning fire drew national attention because Lamping and her children, 7-year-old Kai and now 1-year-old Oria, were reported missing about four hours after the home burned down.

The days that followed saw many false leads about the unusual circumstances of her disappearance, including that she may have had a date with a man named Chad that she’d met at a gas station hours before the fire began.

The search ended on Jan. 25 when police found Lamping and her children safe at an off-the-grid commune in Asheville, N.C.

The Virginia Beach Fire Department initially believed that a space heater started the fire; however in an April bond hearing for Lamping, prosecutor Eleanor Gains said that it actually started with an oil lamp.

Court documents show that the metal oil lamp has been taken as evidence, but an analysis of it didn’t reveal any flammable fluids.

Gaines also said that Lamping told police she was home when the fire began. Gaines painted a picture for a Virginia Beach District Court judge of Lamping leaving the home with her children as the fire blazed in her bedroom, knowing that four animals remained inside the house, including her own cat, Kenji.

The other three animals belonged to her roommate, 23-year-old Courtney Bullock. Two of them, a dog named Nevada and a cat named Boss, died of smoke inhalation because they were trapped in Bullock’s bedroom, which was adjacent to Lamping’s.

Gaines said that the prosecution believes a custody battle between the mother and her ex-husband, Kevin Lamping, may have been motivation for her to start the fire and flee.

Kevin Lamping is a Naval officer and Kai’s father. The parents’ custody agreement for their son before Lamping’s disappearance is unclear, but Bullock said Lamping was happy when her ex was underway on a ship because she had more time with her son.

“I can’t really comment on what the prosecutor believes, but I have fought for custody of Kai several times at this point,” Kevin Lamping said in an April Facebook message to a Southside Daily reporter.

Upon Lamping’s return to Virginia, Kevin Lamping was granted full-time custody of Kai. Lamping is still able to see her son, but only during supervised visits, defense attorney Otis Forbes said in April.

In a Thursday interview with Southside Daily, Kevin Lamping confirmed that Kai has seen his mother during supervised visits.

“So far that has been going well,” Kevin Lamping said, adding that Kai has been thriving since his return to Virginia.

Kai Lamping (in green) poses with his newborn sister, Jessica. The baby girl was born on June 15. (Courtesy of Kevin Lamping)

Kevin Lamping also said that Kai has recently become a big brother to a newborn sister named Jessica.

“Kai absolutely adores her and it’s so cute to see him interact with her,” Kevin Lamping said.

In April, Forbes said that since Lamping returned to Virginia Beach she’s been working with a city social worker on her mental health.

Her father, David Bogart, said that Lamping has also been taking medication for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Lamping and Oria have been living with her mother and father since Jan. 25, and it is unclear whether or not she has continued treatment.

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