[EDITOR’S NOTE: On Oct. 25, investigators updated the case, saying that the woman’s burns were self-inflicted. What follows below was the text as reported in the original Oct. 23 story.]
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An unthinkable crime along a Minnesota highway left a young woman fighting for her life.
Relatives say someone doused 24-year-old Jaclyn Arnold with an accelerant, then set her on fire in Duluth last week. She suffered severe burns over most of her body. The attack happened near a fire training school, bUt the incident isn’t connected to the school.
Jaclyn Arnold grew up in Colorado. A child with a heart for others, her mother Laura Pleban says each year she would use Christmas money to help women in need.
“The gift that she has chosen since she was 12 years old was to give funds to women overseas who had been sexually abused,” Pleban said.
That drive is what led her to Minnesota. Last year, she went to Standing Rock to try and help the people of the reservation. She met new friends who told her about Duluth. It was there that she got a job as an advocate for indigenous woman who are abused.
“She’s a person that the only thing she thinks about is other people,” Pleban said.
Now, so many are thinking about her after what happened in Duluth Thursday afternoon. Someone set Jaclyn on fire, and her family says she was talking on the phone to her fiancé when it happened.
Her mother, who lives in Wyoming, got the call Friday morning.
“It was absolutely devastating to know one, that your daughter’s hurt, and secondly, that it’s most probably a perpetrator of some sort who is vicious,” Pleban said.
Jaclyn is at Hennepin County Medical Center’s burn unit. Doctors say 85 percent of her skin, must be removed and replaced — a process doctor’s cautiously began Sunday.
“They were very conscious to have us say our goodbyes before she went to surgery, but then she really surprised them. She did really well,” Pleban said.
Now, Jaclyn has 20 to 30 more surgeries ahead, and the strong young woman who’s advocated for so many has a fight of her own.
Pleban says her daughter is strong and gritty.
“My little girl’s not done,” she said. “I mean, she has so much more to give. She was just getting going.”
Jaclyn is in a medically induced coma, so it’s not clear if she remembers what happened. Her family says she is stable now, but she has an incredibly long road ahead.
Duluth Police believe there was a witness in the area, and they’re are hoping for tips. Jaclyn’s co-workers have started a fund for her medical bills — you can donate here.