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Father defends daughter accused of arson

Traci Gilson good at working with children
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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When Tom Gilson sees his daughter’s booking photo, he can’t help but flash back to six months before that picture was taken. Six months earlier, his daughter, Traci Nicole Gilson, had a bright smile and a job working with autistic children. Six months earlier, Traci Gilson was taking classes at Sierra College, working toward a teaching credential. Six months earlier, Traci Gilson started dating Allan Lane Scott and things started to change, Tom Gilson said. Traci Gilson is charged with a series of felonies relating to arson and great bodily harm for allegedly trying to set her boyfriend on fire in Foresthill last November. The 21-year-old has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has insisted to her father and authorities that she did not do what she’s accused of doing. Prosecutor Joe McInerney, however, said that he hopes Gilson is “held accountable for her conduct.” Tom Gilson says he stands behind his daughter and is collecting letters and help from others who also support Traci Gilson. “Traci was not a bad person and now they’re trying to give her 15 years (in prison),” Tom Gilson said. After she graduated from Del Oro High School a few years ago, Tom Gilson said his daughter had a few jobs before she found her niche working with children with autism. “She loves her kids and does great things with her kids,” Tom Gilson said. Tony Peterson, principal at Russell Ranch Elementary School in Folsom, wrote a letter on Traci Gilson’s behalf stating he would hire her again if it were a possibility. Gilson was hired through a private company to help tutor special-needs children. She was at Russell Ranch for about six months, Peterson said. “She worked very well with the children,” Peterson said. “She was very attentive to their needs.” Tom Gilson said shortly after his daughter met Scott sometime in early summer, her life changed. She agreed to move into a house in Foresthill with Scott. The weeks leading up to the fire, both Traci Gilson and Scott were jobless and were facing eviction from a home they could no longer afford, Tom Gilson said. “She didn’t go up there with the intent to do anybody harm,” Tom Gilson said. “She went up there to set up a home.” Police reports have indicated the day of the fire, Traci Gilson and Scott had been arguing. At about 9 a.m. Nov. 14, a utility worker driving on Foresthill Road saw a vehicle on fire and Traci Gilson and Scott standing outside of the car. Scott reportedly suffered from severe burns before being flown to University of California, Davis, Medical Center. Scott’s family did not return calls for comment. McInerney said he could not comment on Scott’s current condition. He said the District Attorney’s Office dropped an attempted murder charge against Gilson. Instead, she is expected to answer Wednesday to charges of arson, assault with force likely to cause great bodily harm as well as an enhancement related to great bodily injury that Scott suffered, McInerney said. McInerney added that Gilson is also charged with a series of misdemeanors relating to theft from an area market. He said the theft occurred a few months prior to the November altercation. A trial may or may not occur depending on how Gilson pleads at the Wednesday arraignment. McInerney said he has spoken with Traci Gilson’s attorney, Jonathon Richter, but could not comment on the conversation or on whether a plea deal was offered. When contacted, Richter, a public defender, declined to comment on the case. Tom Gilson said he’s hoping to find a way to keep his daughter from serving time in confinement. “She’s never been in real trouble,” Tom Gilson said. Tom Gilson said he visits his daughter at the county jail about once a week. He said he’s noticed that she’s become weaker so he tries to keep their meetings upbeat and assure he’s doing what he can to help. He added that he hopes his daughter can be released soon and given a chance to be a productive member of society. “I wish nothing bad against Allan. I hope this turns him around,” Tom Gilson said. “She’s done five months now. Why not give her some hoops to jump through and see what she does?” Traci Gilson, who remains in custody without bail, is scheduled to appear in Placer County Superior Court 8:30 a.m. March 4 in Dept. 32 in the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.