Archive for Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Arrest made in deadly fire

Word that blaze was intentional creates new anguish for survivors

October 12, 2005


A fast-food employee who recently moved out on his own after living in foster care is accused of setting a massive apartment-building fire that killed three people.

Lawrence Police on Tuesday arrested Jason Allen Rose, 20, on suspicion of three counts of murder and one count of arson in connection with the fire Friday morning that devastated a 76-unit building at the Boardwalk Apartments, 500 block of Fireside Drive.

"If he started that fire, he can go to hell and back," said Ryan Loffland, boyfriend of Kansas University student Nicole Bingham, who was killed in the fire.

Police said Rose lived at the apartment complex, but it wasn't clear Tuesday whether he lived in the building that burned.

On Friday afternoon, Rose went to First Baptist Church, 1330 Kasold Drive, and presented himself to disaster-relief workers as a displaced resident in need of help, said Jane Blocher, executive director of the local chapter of the American Red Cross.

But as fire investigators conducted roughly 195 interviews in the days after the fire, Rose surfaced as someone "we needed to contact," said Mark Bradford, acting chief of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical. Bradford declined to talk about a motive, how the fire was started, or what led investigators to suspect Rose, citing the ongoing investigation.

Rose was arrested about 2 a.m. Tuesday after going to the Lawrence Police Department's west-side station for an interview. As of Tuesday evening, he remained in Douglas County Jail without bond and was expected to be charged this afternoon.

'Out of character'

Even though Rose lived at the Boardwalk complex, police said, the address he listed on jail records was a home at 1149 East 1200 Road operated by The Villages, a Topeka-based agency that provides group living for troubled youth.

Rose was featured in a summer 2005 newsletter published by The Villages. The newsletter said he recently graduated from Lawrence High School and was working two jobs - Montana Mike's Steakhouse and Taco Bell - and preparing to find an apartment on his own.

Lawrence High School teacher Cathy Lyman said she worked with Rose for the three years leading up to his graduation. She described him as eager to please, sensitive and gullible.

Lyman said Rose had family in El Dorado.

Jason Allen Rose

Jason Allen Rose

He liked to play video games and work on cars, she said, and she didn't know him to use drugs other than smoking cigarettes. She said he had difficulty interacting with people but that she didn't think he was the kind of person who would set a deadly fire.

"It seems very much out of character," Lyman said.

Rose had a reading disability, she said.

Still, she said he was dependable and held a job for much of the time she knew him. He considered himself a night person and mostly worked night jobs, she said.

Restaurant worker

Lucas Shoup, a manager of Montana Mike's, 1015 Iowa, said Rose had cleared tables and washed dishes at the restaurant for about six months but left the restaurant about two months ago for more hours at Taco Bell.

"He wasn't our best worker, but he did a halfway decent job," Shoup said.

Shoup said Rose was "a good kid."

"I just think he was a little misled in his life," Shoup said. "He joked with some of the staff sometimes, but he pretty much kept to himself. : He had family issues. His dad lived somewhere else, his mom lived somewhere else."

Riddle services

A pair of memorial services are planned for Yolanda Riddle, a social worker who died in the Boardwalk Apartments fire last week. "Our service will be at 3:30 p.m. Friday in the auditorium," said Venida Chenault, academic dean at Haskell Indian Nations University. Riddle, a Navajo, graduated from Haskell with an associate's degree. She later earned a bachelor's degree in social work from Kansas University and a master's degree from Washington University in St. Louis. Area foster parents will host an informal, come-and-go service from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at American Legion Dorsey-Liberty Post No. 14, 3408 W. Sixth St.

A manager at Taco Bell, 1408 W. 23rd St., declined comment.

Investigation continues

Bradford said Tuesday afternoon that police were still interviewing Rose and fire investigators were still at the scene. He asked anyone with more information to call the fire department at 832-7600.

Dist. Atty. Charles Branson said Tuesday it was too early to say for certain what charges Rose would face. The law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty for "intentional and premeditated killing of more than one person as a part of the same act," but Branson said it wasn't yet clear whether that language could apply to this case.

Branson said he expected to request a bond "in excess of a couple hundred thousand" dollars.

Victims confirmed

Bradford said Tuesday the coroner's office had confirmed the identities of two of the three victims: KU student Bingham and Yolanda Riddle, a social worker with the state's Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. Family and friends had identified Bingham and Riddle on Monday along with a third person, Jose Gonzalez, 50, an electrician at Quality Electric Inc. in Lawrence.

As of Tuesday, Gonzalez still had not been confirmed as a victim of the fire.

Yvonne Vega, a niece of Gonzalez, said she was stunned by the arrest and struggling to understand how someone could have set the fire.

500 block of Fireside Drive

"It's easier if it's just an accident," she said.

Some people "don't have the humanity that should be there," she said.

Delilah Tidzump, a friend of Riddle's since 1987, said she was "devastated."

"I know we're supposed to forgive, but right now that's kind of hard," Tidzump said. "We've lost someone who was very dear to us."

KU issued a statement mourning the loss of Bingham, a history major who worked in the business office of the Kansas Union and was a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority.

"The entire University of Kansas community is deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of Nicole Bingham. We offer our most heartfelt condolences to her family, friends and colleagues," Chancellor Robert Hemenway said in a prepared statement.

David Mucci, director of the KU Memorial Unions, described Bingham as a "bright, capable and thoughtful individual upon whom we all relied."

The apartment complex is owned by Boardwalk Apartments LLC. According to the Kansas Secretary of State's office, the registered agent for the company is "SMF Registered Services Inc.," which is located at the offices of the Overland Park law firm Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP. A woman who answered the phone there Tuesday said "the firm has no comment."

6News reporters Laura Berger, Cody Howard, Janet Reid and Brooke Wehner contributed to this story.


Sigmund 12 years, 8 months ago

More about who the suspect is but nothing about the evidence against him. Its amazing how many people who ordinarily don't trust or like the LPD, or who think they are idiots, are willing to simply take their word in this case. I wonder how many people who are against the death penalty have suddenly made an exception in this case. By the way, the Kansas Supreme Court recently decided that Kansas's death penalty law was unconstitutional. I know that Phil Cline (sp?) was going to appeal that decision. Does anyone know the status of that appeal?

Spoken1 12 years, 8 months ago

"our bleeding heart judges will feel his pain. and decide iit was too easy for him to set the fire, so it wasnt really his fault"

intentional ignorance, didn't have to think, did ya?

Baille 12 years, 8 months ago

Why don't we take some time and find out if he is guilty of something before we kill him?

Lowell Holmes 12 years, 8 months ago

I for one have always been for the death penalty, particularly for serial killers and killers of children. However, Branson said in the article he is not sure that this case meets the standards for the death penalty which is the intentional and premeditated murder of more than one person.

bthom37 12 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, some more evidence would be nice, since so far all we've seen is character assassination. Probably will be more evidence with the filing of charges this afternoon.

Lowell Holmes 12 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

hurlehey 12 years, 8 months ago

you assume theres not more evidence just because it's not in the paper? thats sort of sad

Centrist 12 years, 8 months ago

The LPD did a super job (with help) on this case, finding the suspect so quickly. And yeah, I like to bash the LPD a lot of the time, just not this time. BTW, when someone sets fire to a building that has a bunch of people in it, I'd say that's "intentional and premeditated murder of more than one person" .... is plain old LOGIC just SUCH a foreign concept these days?

Lowell Holmes 12 years, 8 months ago

Speaking of evidence Centrist, we dont know how the fire was started. Did he start it "intentionally" or was it the result of some other illegal act. That will be what determines wether or not the death penalty applies. And they are right to withhold evidence until the investigation is complete.

Centrist 12 years, 8 months ago

mightyquin, you are correct, I believe. Although an "arrest has been made", we should wait and see ...

Dani Davey 12 years, 8 months ago

Sigmund - The Supreme Court agreed to hear our death penalty case. Kansas v. Marsh is scheduled to be argued on December 7, 2005 which means we'll probably have a decision by late March or April.

Dani Davey 12 years, 8 months ago

All of this death penalty talk is moot. Regardless of what Branson said about the language of the law we currently don't have a death penalty because it's under appeal. My understanding is that even if Scotus reinstates it for us, he's not eligible because his crime was committed while there was no death penalty.

Ragingbear 12 years, 8 months ago

Apparently, there is a little used clause in Kansas law where the death penalty may still apply. According to my understanding, they are aiming to use this. But most likely the guy will plead to life.

However, as a victim, I claim dibs on making a piece of art out of his testes, but only if he is in fact the perpetrator. Gonna have to let the courts decide.

Sigmund 12 years, 8 months ago

Dani- Thanks for the information, I'll try and find the briefs on-line or maybe I'll just watch an episode of Law and Order :) It will be particularly interesting to see how Roberts and Mier (if confirmed) will rule and who is assigned to write the majority opinion.

born1980 12 years, 8 months ago

What a tragedy, warm regards and prayers to all of the families involved. This piece of garbage deserves everything he gets and much more if convicted. It is good the Lawrence Commission is not our judicial system. He would probably get probation and a "second chance."

Jillster 12 years, 8 months ago

I think it's very wise of the LPD not to release too much information too quickly. I would hate for evidence to get botched, and for the guilty party to go free on a technicality.

Dani Davey 12 years, 8 months ago

Ragingbear - my understanding after reading the Marsh decision is that the KS Court struck down the entire death penalty statute because a part of it conflicted with the 8th Amendment's cruel and unusual clause - specifically I think it was if there is a tie in mitigating and aggravating evidence then the tie goes to the state, and they found that to be in violation. If my understanding is correct, unless the US Supreme Court rules otherwise then our death penalty, as currently written is gone. Now that isn't to say we can't rewrite the statute to reinstate it but it can't be applied retroactively.

Another and more recently publicized example than the one wendt gave is BTK. He wasn't eligible for the death penalty because during the time span he was committing his crimes, Kansas had no death penalty. It was abolished in, I believe, 1973 and not reinstated until 1992.

dex 12 years, 8 months ago

he has yet to be charged and investigators are still collecting information ... but the police have already given his name to the local paper?

Sigmund 12 years, 8 months ago

To add yet another twist, if the US Supreme Court overrules the Kansas Supreme Court then Kansas's death penalty statute would be valid and would not need to be ammended and/or rewritten. Marsh's sentence would likely be reinstated, but what about people charged between the Kansas Supreme Court ruling and the US Supreme Court reversal? Could the prosecution ask for the death penalty for any death eligible cases with convictions that occured in the interim but haven't yet been sentenced?

Steve Jacob 12 years, 8 months ago

This is KANSAS. No jury will give the death penalty for a fire.

That being said, if this man did it, I bet his lawyer would try to lower it to second degree murder.

Regardless, he's looking at 20-40 years.

calnvy 12 years, 8 months ago

Speaking of not giving a sh*t about the death penalty debate, and how obsurdly irrellevant it is at this point... Does anyone know if anything is being done to help those who lost everything? I know most are probably students and families that didn't have any insurance. Are any charities helping out this case specifically?

meggers 12 years, 8 months ago


I believe the death penalty discussion ensued because the article was specifically about the arrest of the alleged perpetrator - this has understandably drawn speculation about charges, punishment, sentencing guidelines, etc.

There are other articles relating solely to the victims, but to answer your question, I know the Red Cross has been involved and I believe Penn House is helping out, as well.

Dani Davey 12 years, 8 months ago

Sigmund - I think the answer to your question is no. Because there was no death penalty in Kansas at the time the crime was committed whoever ends up being convicted (if anyone) won't be eligible for the death penalty. I don't think it matters that it's pending review because the KS Legislature could have passed a new statute reinstating the death penalty (but with the appropriate language changes) last session but they chose not to because they thought it would hurt their chances of getting a Supreme Court review.

Ann 12 years, 8 months ago

If Rose is found guilty he should live with the consequences of his actions. That is part of being an adult.
However, we should look carefully at how young adults exit the state foster care system. Perhaps we could of prevented this tragedy.

memo 12 years, 8 months ago

You cannot change what happened in the past, neither can I. What you can change is what you do in the future. I have to agree with Ann to a point; we need to pay attention to all our young adults in general. Many of our country's most infamous killers were never in the foster system.

mdgt04 12 years, 8 months ago

I've known this guy through work and school for about four years and I could never picture him intentionally hurting someone. Sure, he has some issues just like many other kids from broken homes, but the Jason I knew was sweet, quiet, and wouldn't hurt a fly. Jason's downfall is that he lacks the reason that most people have and he doesn't always understand the consequences of his actions. The lack of evidence in the news related to his accusation makes me uneasy. I may be horribly wrong about his character but, even if he is found guilty, wouldn't a mental institution or a group therapy situation be a better choice to care for his needs?

Bob Forer 12 years, 8 months ago

For you ignorant fools who are already yelling character assassination, here's a bit of advice. As a former prosecutor and public defender, I can assure you the young man charged confessed to his crimes. Ethical rules prevent prosecutors from making certain extrajudicial comments, including the fact that a suspect has confessed. The fact of his confession will come out properly and in due time: in a court of law as evidence. Until then, I suggest that you seek other methods of public comment in lieu of the invective. Perhaps you might even consider giving law enforcement a slap on the back for the fine job they have done in this case.

emilyhodges 12 years, 8 months ago

Nicole Bingham was a very good friend of mine, that I have known for 8 years. Jason Rose murdered her, took her life, and was rightfully charged for it. I also think the apartment complex is partially responsible for lack of sprinklers, and supposly a defective fire alarm. When it doesn't personally effect you, it's easy to defend Jason ,and look at his character, church experience, and unfortunate upbringing, but when it does personally effect you, and he did something this horrific on purpose all of that falls away. Just a perspective from someone who was very close to one of the 3 innocent victims.

anotherlie 12 years, 4 months ago

Jason Rose is a sweet boy and he didn't do a thing!

anotherlie 12 years, 4 months ago

Jason Rose wouldn't do this! So f*** everyone who thinks he did!

anotherlie 12 years, 2 months ago

every one believes he didn't do it and by the way I think he might very well have, but I didn't enter the last comments, so now I think that it's never the person you think it will be that commits the crime. It's always the person you least suspect. Is it ever the guy (or girl) you think it will be that molests your child? In some cases it is, but there are those times where it will be your neighbor or a family friend. So, back to Jason Rose, he did it, but I don't think ANYBODY deserves the death penalty, and that's all I have to say.

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