A Hennepin County judge cited mental illness and acquitted a 21-year-old woman on charges that she set a fire late last year that destroyed her family's Lake Minnetonka mansion moments after attacking her mother in the home.
Sophia C. Schultz was found not guilty Wednesday "by reason of mental defect" of first-degree arson and domestic assault in connection with the Dec. 27 torching of the home in the 2900 block of Westwood Road in Minnetonka Beach, defense attorney Matthew Mankey said Wednesday.
District Judge Kerry Meyer's acquittals on both counts came in a trial on stipulated facts, Mankey said, meaning the prosecution and the defense presented evidence for Meyer to consider before she reached her verdicts.
The evidence included the criminal complaint, which laid out the prosecution's account of that night. The complaint included Sophia Schultz telling authorities from a hospital that she set the home on fire and attacked her mother because she was paranoid, felt like the world was ending and thought there was a demon in her head.
"The court determined that the act took place due to mental defect, and she is not guilty by reason of mental defect," Mankey said. "She wasn't able to appreciate the criminality of her actions. … This is something she had no control over."
Mankey said Schultz "is in a regimen and getting treatment. She's on the right track [and] doing fabulously now."
A message was left with the Hennepin County Attorney's Office seeking its response to the verdicts.
According to the criminal complaint:
Pamela Schultz told a 911 operator that her daughter was in the midst of a mental crisis and the house was on fire. Once outside, Sophia Schultz told an emergency medical responder about a demon speaking to her. Pamela Schultz, who also escaped the fire, said to police that her daughter has psychological challenges.
Pamela Schultz said she awoke that night and smelled gasoline. She went downstairs and saw her daughter standing in the dark. Pamela Schultz detected a gasoline odor from a jug in the kitchen and saw a lit candle on the floor.
Sophia Schultz started hitting her mother, who grabbed the jug and poured the gasoline down the drain. Pamela Schultz called 911 from a balcony, then climbed over and was hanging from it as her daughter pulled her down by the legs and assaulted her again.
The fire destroyed the Lafayette Bay home, which was last assessed at more than $3.3 million before the blaze.
In 2016, the 6,320-square-foot home was featured in the magazine Artful Living and was described as having five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a five-car garage, several balconies, porches and patios and more than an acre of gardens and landscaping.