Team up with us for 99¢

ST. LOUIS • A woman whose son was killed after she set their house in north St. Louis County on fire for financial gain more than 13 years ago was sentenced in federal court here Thursday to eight years in prison.

Sandra Kay Bryant, 59, will get credit for the four years and two months she has already served, according to the sentence ordered by U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig. It was part of an agreement between Bryant’s attorneys and prosecutors when she pleaded guilty in March to one charge of aiding and abetting the use of fire to commit mail fraud.

Bryant’s ex-husband, Steven H. Kemper, 56, pleaded guilty to the same charge and was sentenced last month to five years and 10 months in prison. He received a break for cooperating with investigators and agreeing to testify against Bryant if she were to go to trial.

The couple’s son, Zachariah Andrew Kemper, 15, became trapped in the basement and was killed during the fire at 6682 Champana Lane on Nov. 16, 2001. Steven Kemper has said the plan was for the house to burn when it was unoccupied, and to blame careless smoking and cleaning.

Court records revealed it was the third arson planned or carried out by the couple.

As part of his guilty plea in 2013, Kemper admitted setting fire to his mother-in-law’s house in 1997. He was retaliating against Betty Bryant for ending her financial support and cutting the couple out of her will after she discovered they had defrauded her. Betty Bryant escaped and later reconciled with the couple.

In 1999, Bryant set fire to her mother’s home in Alton when it failed to sell, prosecutors said.

Bryant, under her married name, originally faced murder and arson charges in St. Louis County Circuit Court, until a mistrial was caused when jurors were allowed to see a video showing Bryant’s polygraph examination. The Missouri Supreme Court ultimately held that because the mistrial was declared over the objection of the defense, state prosecutors were barred by rules against double jeopardy retrying her.

Get high-interest news alerts delivered promptly to your inbox.




Jennifer S. Mann is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.