RENO, Nev – The woman accused of killing 12 people by setting Reno's deadliest hotel fire pleaded guilty to all charges Friday in a deal that will allow her to avoid the death penalty.
Valerie Moore, 47, a casino cook, had been charged with 12 counts of murder and one count of arson for setting fire to a mattress Halloween night after arguing with another resident at the historic Mizpah Hotel near the downtown casino district.
Moore faces life without parole on each of the 12 murder charges, and five to 15 years in state prison on the felony arson charge. The sentences are to run consecutively.
Sentencing was set for March 16.
Moore's public defenders say Moore has a history of mental illness.
Investigators say all 12 victims died of asphyxiation from smoke and soot, and 31 people other were injured. The Oct. 31 blaze gutted the 84-year-old brick building, which served largely as a residential hotel.
During a preliminary hearing last month, one tenant testified that Moore was angry and intoxicated when she threatened him earlier that night.
Before the plea, Moore had been scheduled to go to trial in January 2008.
Moore was paroled in 2005 after serving 17 years in prison for second-degree murder. Prosecutors said she killed a woman who had spurned Moore's sexual advances and argued with her over money.
The death toll at the Mizpah doubled two other deadly fires, a 1962 blaze at the Golden Hotel and 1879's "Great Fire of Reno," which each killed six people.
The recently renovated hotel, built in 1922 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, was equipped with smoke alarms but was not required to have sprinklers.