Caretaker, friend charged with murder, arson

Celia Schwab and Maria Meissner accused in Kathryn Breen's death

Celia Lee Schwab (left) and Maria Lucille Meisner (right). (WCSO)

BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) — A caretaker and her friend face murder charges in the death of a 74-year-old Beaverton woman who died about a month after a fire swept through her Beaverton home.

Kathryn Susan Breen was injured in a fire that broke out on the afternoon of December 23, 2016 on the 5400 block of SW Alger Avenue. A 911 caller said the fire was near the front door and a woman with mobility problems was stuck in bed, TVF&R said.

Beaverton police spokesperson Officer Mike Rowe declined to identify the cause of the fire, but 4 days later the Washington County DA’s Office charged 2 women with first-degree arson and 3 counts of second-degree assault.

“We determined that the fire was not an accident and that it was set intentionally,” Rowe said.

Those women, 63-year-old Celia Lee Schwab and 55-year-old Maria Lucille Meisner, were neighbors and friends. Meisner lived next door to Breen, and Schwab had been Breen’s caretaker for several years, police said.

Breen died January 24 at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

“It’s just a sad thing,” Rowe said. “Kathryn had relied upon Schwab to be her caretaker for, I believe, several years. And then for something like this to happen to her.”

The original charges against Schwab and Meisner were dismissed Monday after a new grand jury indictment leveled the murder charges against them. A motive has not been revealed by either police or prosecutors.

Schwab now faces 2 counts of murder and one count each of first-degree arson, first-degree assault and first-degree criminal mistreatment.

In June 2009, Schwab was convicted in Washington County on one count of fraudulent use of a credit card. She was ordered not to care for elderly people for 2 years. Another charge of first-degree criminal mistreatment was dismissed.

Meisner is charged with one count each of aggravated murder, murder, first-degree arson and first-degree assault. According to her attorney, she has an IQ score of 68 and may be mentally unfit to stand trial.

Both remain held in Washington County Jail. Trial dates have not been set.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.

KOIN 6 News reporter Dan Tilkin contributed to this report.