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Diane Hays, the homeowner at 2411 Stuart St., speaks about her roommate, Amy Bates, who is charged in connection with a fatal shooting late Sunday evening.

Three loud gunshots awakened Diane Hays just before midnight Sunday.

But before she could get out of bed, Amy Bates, a woman who had been staying with Hays, burst into the room. Bates was calm, but told Hays they needed to leave the house.

A man was dead, Bates said. We've got to burn the house down.

No way, Hays told her.

"This is my house," Hays said.

Hays woke up her boyfriend and the two rushed to their spare bedroom at 2411 Stuart St., where they found Bates' friend dead on the floor and fire creeping up the wall.

Hays and her boyfriend used three buckets of water to put out the flames while Bates, 29, ran out the back door. Hays' boyfriend called 911 and police quickly found Bates about three blocks away.

She was arrested and charged with criminal homicide, aggravated arson, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm in commission of a felony. She is being held in the Hamilton County Jail on a $1.56 million bond.

The victim, a white male whose name has not been released by police, was found dead at the foot of the bed with a gunshot wound to the head, according to police.

"It's like something just snapped inside her," Hays said. "Because she's not normally like that."

Bates had been staying in the house for about a month, Hays said. The woman, a friend of a friend, needed a place to stay, so Hays let her move into the spare bedroom. Bates wasn't paying rent, but she did take care of the housekeeping, Hays said.

About a week ago, the victim also moved into the bedroom, Hays said. He was between jobs as well. Hays is not sure why Bates may have shot the victim or where she found the gun.

"They were best friends," Hays said. "It doesn't make any sense whatsoever."

Janice Robinson, a longtime friend of Hays and the victim, said the man was a friendly, outgoing guy who worked as a handyman on odd jobs.

"He was a great guy," she said. "He got in trouble every now and then, but he didn't deserve this. He was trying to find his path."

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This house at 2411 Stuart St. is owned by Diane Hays.

Hays said both Bates and the victim used methamphetamine. In October, Bates was arrested and charged with drugs general category for resale, as well as possession of drug paraphernalia. In the past, she had been arrested on theft charges. The victim's criminal record includes theft, drug, assault and traffic charges dating to 1993.

Bates is scheduled to appear in Hamilton County Sessions Court today.

Hays said Sunday's events have convinced her to never again let anyone stay in her and her boyfriend's house.

"I learned my lesson the hard way," she said. "We have a big heart, but my heart got a little smaller now."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbrad with tips or story ideas.