Woman accused of burning St. Matthews business returns to trial

LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Susan Lukjan, who was found guilty Thursday of all three charges relating to the 2006 arson of her St. Matthews business, has accepted a plea deal calling for her to receive probation.

She was sentenced to 15 years on three charges, but prosecutors agreed that she would only serve five years probation.

Afterwards, Lukjan maintained her innocence, but said she was simply tired of fighting:  "It's just -- sometimes you gotta give up.  You know, I loved it, this store's my life.  I continue to say I didn't do anything wrong, but it just -- sometimes you just gotta give up.  It's OK.  Life will go on."

"This was never a vindictive case for the Commonwealth," Prosecutor Leland Hulbert said.  "We were never out to get her.  She has had, besides this awful incident, a crime-free life.  So that is part of the reason for recommending probation. 

Lukjan was charged with deliberately setting a fire that destroyed Campbell's Gourmet Cottage in 2006 so she could collect on an insurance policy.

She was also found guilty of two other charges related to the fire, including burning personal property to defraud an insurer and fraudulent insurance acts over $500.

A jury found Lukjan guilty of arson in July 2010. She was sentenced to 12 years, but her conviction was overturned on appeal when the Court of Appeals ruled that testimony from an expert witness for the defense was improperly excluded.

As part of Friday's deal, Lukjan waives her right to appeal the verdict.  That's a different decision than she'd offered up Thursday when she told WDRB she planned to appeal, and that the system let her down.

She said then she is disappointed with our justice system:  "It's nothing but a game on who plays the best cards and who can out deceive the other. It's nothing but a deception," Lukjan said.

WDRB's Tamara Evans asked Lukjan if there was anything she would like to say to the jury.  "They got it wrong. I'm sorry. That's all," Lukjan replied.

But on Friday, Lukjan took the plea deal, which included waiving the right to appeal.  The judge accepted the deal and set formal sentencing date for August 6.

Lukjan has already served six months in prison.  It also means her civil suit against her insurance company will go away.

Lukjan claimed during the trial that she received threats in the days before Campbell's Gourmet Cottage went up in flames.

Prosecutors said she set the fire to cash in on insurance money, and depicted her as financially struggling.


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