LAWRENCEVILLE -- When cryptic letters made of magazine clippings weren't enough, the 48-year-old home nurse from Macon, a woman with no criminal history, turned to a more primal means of intimidation:
Barbara Stevenson used twigs to set fire to two Norcross businesses last summer as a means of payback to the father of her child. A remorseful Stevenson pleaded guilty this week to two counts of first-degree arson, telling a judge she simply snapped when her beau, a convicted murderer, left her for another woman, said Assistant District Attorney Frances Anderson.
Stevenson's alleged fire-starting doesn't end there.
Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Melodie Snell Conner on Tuesday sentenced Stevenson to nine months confinement, after she'd served nearly four months in jail following her July arrest last year. Prosecutors had asked for two years.
The fires caused minimal damages to the entrances of two neighboring businesses in a strip mall on Avalon Parkway -- Renew Computer and GHS Distribution, where Stevenson's boyfriend, Eddie Jackson, worked. She was ordered to pay restitution for one of the businesses' doors, Anderson said.
The fires were the culmination of odd actions by a woman who'd lived almost five decades without running afoul of the law. Letters with clipped-out, menacing messages directed at Jackson had been posted on the businesses' entrances, and the initials "EJ" spray-painted between rear doors.
Stevenson is also charged with first-degree arson in DeKalb County for trying to set ablaze the rear door of a home associated with Jackson's newer love interest, Anderson said. Court records indicate that case is pending.
"Hell hath no fury ..." the prosecutor said Thursday.
Stevenson was working at an Augusta prison about a decade ago when she met Jackson, who impregnated her there, Anderson said. Jackson, 50, was convicted of murder in DeKalb County in 1988 and released in August 2010, according to Georgia Department of Corrections records.
The relationship continued outside prison until Jackson fell for another woman, triggering Stevenson's criminal behavior, which struck the prosecutor as extreme.
"It's totally out of the ordinary," Anderson said. "It makes no sense."
In July last year, Gwinnett fire investigators and U.S. Marshals traveled to Macon, where they arrested Stevenson as she returned to her apartment. Anderson said fingerprints lifted from the arson scene matched Stevenson's.
Stevenson's grown children have agreed to care for the child she bore with Jackson while she's incarcerated, Anderson said. She was employed as a family care nurse at the time of her arrest, records show.