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Arson suspect's restraining order flubbed?

June 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A woman's mobile home was torched, and she says it happened because authorities could not protect her home from a neighbor who turned against her.

Kathleen Sandlian's mobile home in San Jacinto was destroyed by a suspected arsonist a week and a half ago.

"I'm on Social Security, I've been handicapped. I just don't -- all I can do is look at it," said Sandlian.

The suspected arsonist, Randall Austin, was once a friend of hers. It was a relationship that went bad.

"He was over here constantly, and he was trying to get it to go in the romantic department," said Sandlian.

Then came the threats. Sandlian says she asked for a restraining order.

"He said he was going to break out all the windows and tear it all apart, he was going to set it on fire," said Sandlian.

When Austin violated the temporary restraining order, a Riverside County Superior Court judge in Murrieta threw him in jail for 20 days and ordered that he stay 10 yards away from her home and not have any contact with her.

But for some reason, this information was never properly filed with law enforcement.

"He got arrested and he went to jail for a little over two weeks, I think, but when he got out he just started all over again," said Sandlian. "I thought for sure they would take him away, but they couldn't find any proof of any restraining order."

Days later she got a phone call saying her mobile home was on fire. Books, furniture, everything was destroyed.

The Riverside County District Attorney's Office said in a written statement: "It appears that the deputy D.A. and the court in this case may not have been familiar with the procedure regarding the criminal protective order. While criminal protective orders can be an effective tool in preventing future violence, they are not a guarantee and not always effective against those individuals intent on committing future violence," wrote John Hall, a spokesman for the office.

Randall Austin is now behind bars on arson charges. But Sandlian is left to wonder whether a procedural error allowed her home to be destroyed.

"I mean the whole thing is just ridiculous," said Sandlian.