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Woman charged with arson and first-degree murder in Harwell Steet house fire case

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A woman with a long criminal history is in custody in connection with a Brooksville house fire that claimed the lives of a human being and four dogs.

“This is a situation where somebody out of the goodness of their heart to take in somebody with some issues – some criminal and maybe some mental health issues – ends up becoming a victim.”

At 1:20 a.m. on Jan. 20, Sheriff’s Office deputies and HCFES crews responded to a call from a neighbor who reported that a residence on Harwell Street was completely engulfed in flames.

At the scene, HCFES found the fire so intense that it took about 90 minutes to extinguish it.

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Inside the burned-out structure, investigators discovered the remains of various deceased animals as well as the corpse of one human being.

During a Feb. 14 press conference, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said that 21-year-old Briauna Jade Amann had been arrested and charged in connection with the incident.

According to Nienhuis, between 10 and 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 19, Amann was dropped off at the Harwell Street house by another family member.

On Jan 23, Amann called the sheriff’s office, claiming that she was lost in the woods and needed a ride.

“She was actually using the telephone of the (fire) victim,” Nienhuis said.

Deputies responded to her location but were unable to locate her.

“We did, through investigation, find out that she was given a ride by an individual and had left the area before detectives got there,” he said.

Finally, investigators caught up with Amann at a homeless camp in Marion County.

According to Nienhuis, Amann admitted to starting the house fire, that she stole the victim’s cell phone because she “needed one” and left the residence on foot.

“She also told detectives that she was aware that the victim was sleeping in the residence when the fire was started,” he said.

Amann was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. She is being held at the Marion County Detention Center, where she is being held without bond pending transfer to Hernando County.

She is also charged with arson of an occupied dwelling and grand theft from a dwelling. Bonds on those charges are $25,000 and $5,000, respectively.

In addition to the current fire-related charges, Nienhuis said that the suspect had a long criminal history, including a couple of arrests for battery, possession of a concealed weapon, criminal mischief, petty theft, and grand theft of a motor vehicle.

Though he declined to name the victim, Nienhuis said that Amann and the victim were related.

“Interacting with a person – even a relative who is living a high-risk lifestyle really puts you in pretty serious danger,” he said.

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