Rampage at Apple Valley home earns woman 5 years in prison

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 10, 2012 - 11:37 PM

Rhonda Arkley pleaded guilty to arson, assault and fleeing police, but the charges don't tell the whole story.

Rhonda L. Arkley was ordered to prison for five years Tuesday after her husband told a judge about the lingering trauma for his family from the night in which she hit him with an exercise weight, doused him with gasoline, torched their Apple Valley home, stabbed herself repeatedly in the chest and fled in the family car.

Arkley, 50, showed no emotion as she stood, wrists shackled at her waist, while Stuart Arkley read his statement or when Dakota County District Judge Shawn Moynihan sentenced her to prison. The judge also ordered Rhonda Arkley to pay restitution of $5,499 to her husband and $103,394 to the insurance company that covered the family's losses.

She had pleaded guilty in November to first-degree arson, second-degree assault and fleeing police.

"This conduct is outrageous," Moynihan said after listening to the husband's statement and to recommendations from prosecutor Elizabeth Swank and defense attorney James Blumberg. "This is scary stuff."

Blumberg had argued for a lesser sentence of time served plus after-care and treatment, noting that his client had mental health issues at the time of the attacks. "She is in a different spot now than she was a year ago,'' Blumberg said.

Arkley's rampage happened Dec. 2, 2010. Twenty-two days earlier, she had found her son, Collin Van Dyk, dying from a heroin overdose.

According to the complaint, Stuart Arkley was resting in a lower-level bedroom when his wife entered and threw gasoline on him, hurled a lighted oil lamp and hit him on the head. The two struggled as the injured man tried to flee. Rhonda Arkley grabbed a 5-gallon gas can and spread gasoline around the house. Her husband tried to stop her, but she threw more gas on him and lighted a piece of paper. He fled out a window to a neighbor's house and called 911.

When police arrived, they found Rhonda Arkley in the car stabbing herself in the chest. She fled, and when officers were able to disable the car about 3 1/2 miles away, she was again stabbing herself with a screwdriver, using a hammer to pound it in, the complaint said.

On Tuesday, Stuart Arkley told the court that his wife's actions left him and their two children traumatized.

"While the physical injuries healed," he said, "the mental trauma lasted much longer. ... I feel I need to be vigilant ... and keep looking over my shoulder."

Even before the attack, he said, his wife could be violent, especially when she was drinking. "I'm not sure I can ever feel safe again," he said. "I feel she may come after us again."

Arkley said he is left as the single caregiver for their son, Tanner, 18, who has autism spectrum disorder.

Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284

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