Haines woman accused of a string of arsons while on hallucinogenic mushrooms

The owner of the Sea Wolf Gallery watches as the Haines Volunteer Fire Department extinguishes the structure fire. ( Photo by Henry Leasia)

A 50-year-old Haines woman suspected of a string of arsons while on hallucinogenic mushrooms is in custody Wednesday. The fires damaged an art gallery and a private home.

Haines resident Tresham Gregg was nearly asleep when he learned that his art space, the Sea Wolf Gallery, had caught fire Tuesday night. He says he was alerted by a friend who was walking home and saw the flames.

“We rushed down there and it was already totally out of control,” he said.

Gregg said that the front of the wood cabin was engulfed in flames. Firefighters worked to contain the fire, located in the middle of Fort Seward, a historic military installation in Haines. They were able to keep the fire from spreading to surrounding buildings. Nobody was hurt.

Gregg said the gallery has been vacant all summer, and he didn’t know how or why someone would try to burn it down.

“Well, all I know is what the police chief told me, which is that somebody did it on purpose,” Gregg said.

Haines police say that somebody is 50-year-old Darsi L. Johnson. They’ve charged her with felony arson, criminal mischief and misdemeanor assault.

Court documents detail that two people living at a house on Matrix Drive told police that Johnson had been living with them. They said Tuesday evening she set a belt on fire and threw it in a dresser in her bedroom. The owner of the house said he put out the flames with a fire extinguisher. Johnson is then accused of attacking one of the residents with a metal nail file before leaving the house.

Haines police say they searched the area and found Johnson walking near Fort Seward. Officers say she admitted to starting a fire in her room, attacking her housemate and setting the art gallery ablaze.

During a court hearing Wednesday morning, Haines Police Chief Heath Scott told Judge Linn Asper that hallucinogenic mushrooms may have been a factor in Johnson’s violent behavior.

As for the Sea Wolf Gallery, Gregg isn’t sure if it’s salvageable. The front entrance is charred and a lot of artwork was destroyed. He says that friends have started helping him clean up and consider his options.

“Well, you know you just have to accept,” Gregg says. “When the spirits attack, you deal. We’re dealing, we’re cleaning, and assessing.”

Johnson was appointed a public defender and Judge Asper set bail at $16,000. She is currently being held at the Haines rural jail. Her next court appearance is set for August 10.