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Lawsuit: Investigators withheld information in Kent fire

Seventy-five firefighters battled this three-alarm fire Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, at a Kent strip mall. (KOMO News file photo)

A woman, once accused of burning down a dollar tree in Kent, is now suing to clear her name.

Linda Poplawski remembers the humiliation she felt while standing in the courtroom, accused of a felony. Now, the 66-year-old wants to clear her name.

"I have to stand up for myself here," Poplawski said. "This is my chance to stand up and say, 'no, you did me wrong.'"

She just filed a lawsuit that claims investigators ignored evidence when they arrested her for arson two years ago. Poplawksi was accused of setting a fire at a Dollar Tree in Kent.

A Dollar Tree employee told investigators Poplawksi threatened to start the fire just before flames erupted.

KOMO News asked Poplawski if she ever said those threats.

"No, no," she said. "The only thing I ever said was, 'I'm looking for a shopping cart.'"

Poplawski was charged days later.

"It was probably the most horrible moment of my life," she said.

According to the lawsuit, police got an anonymous tip the day of the fire that a convicted arsonist was telling people he set the fire as a distraction while he shoplifted. But, according to the lawsuit, the lead investigator at Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, Capt. Eric Pederson, never brought that information to prosecutors or Poplawski's lawyers. Neither knew until the defense filed a subpoena 8 months later. When prosecutors found out, the charges were dropped.

"It was really, really, really frightening," Poplawksi said.

In all, Poplawski spend a month in jail and 8 more in house arrest.

"I was afraid they really were going to put me in prison for the rest of my life," she said.

She is now suing Capt. Pederson, the Dollar Tree employee and the store. She is hoping this trip to court will vindicate her.

"And, I hope it stops them from doing something like this again," Poplawski said.

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