Charges dropped in Calaveras burn case

August 07, 2002 12:00 am

By AMY LINDBLOM

Since a badly-burned woman changed her story, charges have been dropped against a Mountain Ranch man who had been accused of setting her on fire.

Ronald Hoiberg, 49, had been in the Calaveras County Jail since July 25 on felony charges of mayhem, assault with caustic chemicals and domestic violence. His girlfriend, Carla Pemmington, on June 2 told Detective Keith Anenson that Hoiberg was responsible for burns she suffered to more than 42 percent of her body. She has since changed her story.

The incident happened April 4 at her Mountain Ranch home. But Pemmington was unable to tell sheriff's deputies what happened to her for almost two months because of breathing tubes in her throat.

How Pemmington was burned is unclear, said District Attorney Jeff Tuttle.

But now she and Hoiberg agree that he did not intentionally set her on fire, Tuttle said, and that Hoiberg did in fact call 911. No details were given on what actually happened.

"We read the report and listened to the 911 tapes sent by the Sheriff's Department and had some questions, some issues with the report," said Tuttle, who sent his investigator, Mitch Hrdlicka, to talk to Pemmington. "But without a crime scene investigation, the case was based solely on their statements. Now that she has recanted, we have no case and were forced to drop the charges."

After Pemmington was able to talk, she first told Calaveras County Sheriff's Detective Keith Anenson that she and Hoiberg were arguing around 7:30 p.m. on April 4 when Hoiberg threw an open container of lantern fuel at her in her remote home without electricity.

The fuel covered her head and torso.

According to Anenson's earlier report, Pemmington told him the two continued to argue and Hoiberg was holding a butane lighter. The next thing she knew, according to Anenson's report, she was on fire.