Trial Details in Fire Case Which Killed Oneontan John Heller
Video evidence, District Attorney John Muehl said, placed accused arsonist Gabriel Truitt inside his Tru Cuts Barber Shop at 4:30 a.m. the night of the fire that killed John Heller.
“He walks in the back door, turns to the right and squats in front of a cabinet,” Muehl said in his opening remarks. “He lights a lighter, takes out two bottles, puts them in his pocket and walks out.”
Those bottles, Muehl told the jury, were isopropyl alcohol.
With the continued testimony of investigator Bill Haynes, who was hired by Leatherstocking Insurance to investigate the cause of the fire, he told the jury he took three samples of wood from the scene. The first sample was taken 15 feet from the point of origin, the second was from just outside the doorway and the third was from just inside the doorway.
Those samples were mailed to Analytical Forensic Institute, a laboratory specializing in chemical analysis of ignitable liquids in fire debris.
“Based on the results, I determined that an ignitable liquid had been poured at the bottom of the stairs and in front of Apartment C,” he said. “In my report, I categorized the fire as incendiary – someone intentionally set it.”
Haynes also said that the exact conditions of the building and weather – the front door left open, creating a draft – spread the fire more rapidly. “I checked with the Weather Bureau and the wind was going 14-15 miles per hour that night,” he said. “With the door open, it went into the house and up the stairway, pulling the fire back out the back window and into the roof rafters.”
Muehl also brought Laurel Mason, owner and laboratory director of Analytical Forensic Evidence, to testify.
The first sample, she said, was negative for ignitable liquid. But the other two, taken from either side of the doorway, both came back positive for isopropyl alcohol.
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