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Suspected drug use lands alleged arsonist back in jail

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Daily Inter Lake | October 14, 2021 12:00 AM

Christina Louise Sanchez has had two chances at freedom after she allegedly committed three different felonies this summer, but an apparent drug problem has landed her back in jail.

Sanchez, 34, a transient woman, was granted release from the Flathead County Detention Center July 1 after pleading not guilty to damaging a local business and three vehicles at a used-car lot on June 27.

Then on July 5, Sanchez became a suspect when someone broke a large window at a bookstore in Kalispell. A Kalispell police officer saw her in the vicinity of the store earlier in the day.

A few hours later, the officer responded to a convenience store after a woman smashed a mirror in the bathroom. The incident was on surveillance footage and Sanchez was identified as the perpetrator.

Ten minutes later, several people alerted the officer to a woman who had used an object to “key” several vehicles. The officer counted 11 vehicles with paint damage.

Later on July 5, deputies from the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office responded to a burning vehicle on a bridge on Montana 35. The owner said he had parked and was heading to the river to fish when he saw a woman on a bicycle stop near his vehicle.

Shortly after, he saw his vehicle on fire. When the victim looked at his vehicle and one parked next to it, he saw several scratches on the vehicles and the windshield of the adjacent vehicle was smashed.

A Kalispell police officer located Sanchez riding a bike that was described by several witnesses. He then learned she allegedly lit a newspaper on fire and threw it inside a convenience store. When a store employee yelled at her, Sanchez allegedly punched her in the face. The incident was on surveillance footage.

When Sanchez appeared in court on Sept. 2, her public defender, Liam Gallagher, argued for her release.

“She’s indigent, but her mother said she could live with her in a room she is renting at the Fairbridge Inn,” Gallagher said. “I understand there are three pending felonies, but she’s been in jail for awhile.”

Flathead District Court Judge Heidi Ulbricht said Sanchez could be released Sept. 2 on her own recognizance. At the time, Flathead County Deputy Attorney Andrew Clegg asked that Sanchez have appointments scheduled for a psychological evaluation and a drug patch put on her before the release.

According to court documents, Sanchez did have a drug patch on when she was released, but soon after tests indicated she had allegedly ingested methamphetamine. Sanchez’s release conditions included not drinking or using drugs.

A warrant for her arrest was issued and she was booked into jail on Oct. 6.

Sanchez faces felony charges of arson and criminal mischief as well as a misdemeanor count of assault.

Sanchez’s next court hearing is set for March 18, 2022. Her maximum sentence on the arson charge is 20 years in the Montana State Prison.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 406-758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.