ST. CLOUD — A Paynesville man accused of killing his daughter in a fire last year has pleaded not guilty.

Jamey Newport, 22, died July 23, 2019, in a fire at her home in Paynesville.

Her father, John Sean Newport, 47, is accused of using gasoline to start the fire while his daughter was inside the home.

Newport is charged with second-degree murder — unintentional while committing a felony. He is in the Stearns County Jail, held on $2 million bail.

Newport entered his plea late last week in Stearns County District Court. No new court date is listed in court records.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

A court order has disallowed some statements Newport made after his arrest and allowed others. The two sides had agreed that some of the statements were not admissible.

The order also allows the prosecution to seek a longer sentence by offering evidence that shows that Newport’s alleged actions displayed particular cruelty, made it difficult for his daughter to escape and endangered the public.

According to court records, John Newport had been living with Jamey Newport in the mobile home, and she had been paying the bills. The afternoon of the fire, he allegedly asked his daughter to drive him to a hardware store, and when she refused, he began slamming things in the house and arguing with her.

When she said she was going to move out, he allegedly decided to set the mobile home on fire.

Newport allegedly poured gasoline in the home and on her beloved kittens in front of her. Friends told law enforcement that Jamey Newport had been depressed, and she used the four kittens as comfort animals during her depression.

A few hours before she died, a co-worker visited her and watched her playing with the kittens outside the home. Jamey Newport posted photos and videos of the kittens to her Facebook page, calling them her “babies.”

In a recorded 911 call, Jamey Newport told the operator that her father had poured gasoline in the house and on her kittens. She said she had gasoline on herself, too.

In the recording, she can be heard saying her father was starting the fire. She screamed that her kittens were on fire, and she had to save them.

A Paynesville police officer arrived at about the same time the phone line went dead, according to court records. The officer reported that he could hear Jamey Newport screaming and tried to enter the home using a fire extinguisher, but he was unable to reach her through the flames.

She was found in the home’s bathtub with the shower running, but efforts to revive her were unsuccessful. She died of smoke inhalation.

The court order says Jamey Newport’s dependence on the kittens for comfort and seeing them intentionally set on fire “would inflict severe emotional psychological distress.” The prosecution will be allowed to argue the crime was committed with “particular cruelty.”

Jamey Newport’s dependence on the kittens and her concern for their welfare compromised her ability to flee the fire, according to the court order.

The prosecution will also be allowed to argue that the fire endangered others. According to court records, the fire stretched toward a nearby mobile home.