A Pacoima woman diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic was sentenced to nine years in prison Wednesday for setting fire to her mother's house while the woman's two young sons and six other family members slept inside.
San Fernando Superior Court Judge Joyce L. Kennard said she would recommend that Angela Aundrea Cobb, 32, be transferred to a state mental hospital to serve her sentence. But that decision will be made by an evaluating board at California Institute for Women in Frontera, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Norman F. Montrose.
Cobb pleaded guilty last month to four counts of attempted murder and to one count of arson for the December, 1986, incident in which her mother's Pacoima home was destroyed and her brother was seriously injured, Montrose said.
On Dec. 26 at about 10:40 p.m., Cobb stuffed some newspapers under a Christmas tree, set it afire and walked out of the house in the 12400 block of Pierce Street, a probation report said.
The fire set off a smoke alarm that awoke Dwayne Cobb, one of Angela Cobb's brothers, the report said. He alerted the other family members and carried his mother out of the house.
While the family stood outside the burning house, they realized that Angela Cobb's 2-year-old son was still inside, according to the report. Dwayne Cobb rushed back inside through a window and rescued the child, cutting himself on the glass window.
Police found Angela Cobb standing on the street near the house about half an hour after the fire broke out, the report said. She told police that she had set the fire and was arrested.
Mary Cobb, Angela's mother, was still baffled Wednesday by the sequence of events on the night of the fire.
Daughter 'Not Upset'
"What I still can't understand is that she wasn't upset or anything," she said. "She was lying on the couch, reading the Bible. When I asked her what section, she said 'Revelation.' "
Attorneys for both the prosecution and the defense agreed that the act was not premeditated, but was triggered by Cobb's severe mental illness. She has been diagnosed by several psychiatrists as a paranoid schizophrenic and has suffered from hallucinations since adolescence, the report said.
"Miss Cobb is a seriously ill person," Montrose said. "She does pose a danger to both herself and society."
She allegedly told one of her sisters a week before the incident that "she was going to kill everyone in the house by blowing it up," the report said. Her motive for setting the fire, according to the probation report, was her anger over having spent money on Christmas presents for her family and not receiving any in return.
While in jail, Angela Cobb said she had started the fire to help her mother. "She said, 'Mama, I did that to give you a rest,' " Mary Cobb said. "She said 'I figured if I burned the house down all the kids would get up and leave and give you a break.' "
Despite the family's injuries and the destruction of their mother's $70,000 home and $20,000 in possessions, none of the family members sought to have Cobb punished for her actions.
"If she hadn't been sick, I would say 'throw the book at her,' " Mary Cobb said. "But she's been sick since she was 17, and she's suffering.
"When she lost her daddy eight years ago, she turned to drugs. She didn't care. She just took anything that came along."
The probation report said Angela Cobb frequently used PCP, cocaine and marijuana.