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Crime & Courts

Tampa mother to face charges in suicide pact, house fire

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Published:   |   Updated: October 28, 2013 at 05:02 PM

TAMPA — A woman who deputies said entered into a suicide pact with her 12-year-old daughter in May has been charged with attempted murder.

Nancy Lowe is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday on charges, also including arson and child abuse in the fire officials initially said they set because they were distraught over abuse from the girl’s father, James Clark. The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office has decided, however to drop domestic abuse charges against Clark.

Their daughter, Allison Clark, remains in foster care, according to James Clark’s lawyer, Anthony B. Rickman, who said Clark hopes to regain custody of the girl.

Rickman said prosecutors have worked for months to investigate the case, and he provided them evidence proving Clark could not have abused Lowe. Among other things, he said, Clark passed a lie detector test.

Days after the fire, prosecutors said Allison changed her story about seeing her father beat her mother.

Court documents filed in connection with the couple’s divorce and child custody dispute indicate both Clark and Lowe have a history of attempted suicide, that Clark has been accused of domestic violence multiple times by two ex-wives, and that Lowe has filed unsubstantiated reports of domestic violence.

Lowe was described in the divorce order as an alcoholic with emotional problems; Clark had been accused of being an alcoholic who also abused drugs.

Two days before the fire, a family court judge held Lowe in contempt for withholding visitation and ordered make-up visitation, according to Clark’s lawyer in the custody case, Lisa Karges.

The day before the fire, Clark, who lives in New Port Richey, filed a report with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office stating he had been awarded custody and that he had allowed the girl to go with her mother to her mother’s house to retrieve her belongings, according to the sheriff’s report.

Clark said his ex-wife sent him a text agreeing to meet at a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office substation but never showed up. After failing to reach his daughter on their cell phones, he said, he filed the report.

The next day, neighbors pulled Lowe, 52, and Allison from flames enveloping their garage. Deputies said they found several suicide letters inside the house.

The mother and daughter were treated for minor smoke inhalation and burns and then taken into custody under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows involuntary commitment for 72 hours for individuals believed to be a risk to themselves.

After the fire, Lowe and her daughter reported that Clark, 45, broke into the house at 6603 Timber Brook Court in the Citrus Park area, on the day of the contempt hearing. Deputies said over the weekend that Clark beat Lowe with his fists and a metal lamp.

The mother and daughter reportedly tried to kill themselves in reaction to that abuse.

But Allison Clark later recanted her claims of seeing her father beat her mother and told deputies she was with her father that day and he hadn’t been near her mother.

Rickman said he provided the prosecution with receipts and store surveillance camera evidence proving his client was in New Port Richey the entire day.

Rickman said the state attorney’s office “did an excellent job investigating” what happened. ”They dropped the charges against my client and they charged her, which is the right decision. You can’t agree to be killed at 12.”

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

813-259-7837

Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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