Boardwalk Fire trial witness testimony, day 3
When Lawrence police Detective Troy Squire first took Jason Rose back to the burned-out shell of the Boardwalk Apartments, he didn't consider the then 20-year-old a suspect in the blaze. He didn't even consider the apartment fire an arson.
But Squire testified today, as he had during preliminary hearings last February, that a call from an employee at Social and Rehabilitation Services changed his line of thinking. "He was definitely a person of interest, at least," Squire, a seargent with the Lawrence Police Department, told the jury in Rose's murder and arson trial today.
The SRS employee "immediately responded" that Rose had a history with fire, Squire said. More than five hours later, after Rose allegedly admitted during a police interview that he started a fire on the second-floor walkway that grew out of control, Rose was arrested under suspicion of starting the fire the killed three people.
Squire said that he didn't know where or how the fire started when he interviewed Rose Oct. 10 - a fact prosecutors need to maintain to show Squire wasn't prodding Rose for the answers he wanted to hear.
However, Squire said near the beginning of his testimony today that he had heard from other Boardwalk residents that the fire may have started near the middle of the 76-unit complex.
That's why Rose's original statement saying he thought the fire started on the far south end of the building struck Squire as odd, he said.
"In my mind, that was the furthest place away from his apartment, like distancing. I found that unusual," Squire told the jury.
Before Squire took the stand, fire victim Maritza Lamberto admitted under cross-examination from defense attorney Ron Evans that she got only a glancing look the man screaming on the second-floor walkway of the apartments the night of the fire - a man she identified in court Thursday as Rose.
"When he turned, I saw him, and I continued walking," Lamberto said through an interpreter today. Lamberto also denied that she told police days after the fire that the man she saw was black, and was yelling at another person in a car who was yelling back. Evans read from the police reports during the questioning.
But under new questioning from Assistant District Attorney Amy McGowan, Lamberto insisted that the man she saw that night was the same man she saw during a preliminary hearing in February 2006.
Now, Squire will tell the jury what Rose allegedly said during his hours-long interview with police, and prosecutors will show jurors the first segment of the videotaped police interview.
Update at 1:36 p.m.
Jason Rose changed his story at least once about where he first saw the flames of the Boardwalk Apartments fire, a taped police interview showed.
Jurors today saw the first hour of Rose's first taped interview with police. It showed Rose with his hand on his forehead, rubbing his temples in silence while Sgt. Troy Squire interrogated him.
In the first hour of the interview that was taped Oct. 10, Rose said that he went outside of his apartment twice after returning from a shift at Taco Bell, where he worked at the time.
He went outside to smoke cigarettes at 11:30 p.m. and at 11:50 p.m., even though he said he only smoked about two cigarettes a day.
Then Rose said he heard some commotion and went outside to see what it was.
"And what do you see?" Squire asked him during the interview.
"I see the glow from the fire," Rose said.
When interviewed by police the day before, he told Squire that he first saw flames near the far south end of the building at 524 Fireside Drive. But in the taped interview, he told Squire and an investigator from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that he first saw the flames in the middle of the building near the 516 Fireside Drive section of the complex.
"Do you see the difference between the statement you gave us yesterday and what you just told us?" Squire asked him.
Rose then put his head down, rubbed his temples with his thumb and forefinger.
"I guess, I'm a little confused," he said.
Rose then changes his story back, claiming that he first saw the fire at the south end of the complex, the tape showed.
Rose also told Squire that he waited in his apartment three minutes on hold with emergency dispatchers while the building burned around him. He was explaining the lag between when he first called 911 and when he arrived across the street.
Jurors will continue watching the video this afternoon.
Update at 2:49 p.m.
When the staff at Elm Acres group home in Pittsburg wouldn't let Jason Rose watch the Power Rangers television show, he decided to take a lighter out of his roommate's top dresser drawer and burn something.
"I took a lighter from a roommate and lit a glove on fire," Rose told Sgt. Troy Squire during a taped interview. "I kind of got even with the house staff."
Rose's admittance came almost two hours into a police interview played today for jurors during his murder trial. Rose is accused of starting the Boardwalk Apartments fire Oct. 7, 2005, that killed three people.
The confession came after Rose repeatedly denied he knew anything about the glove fire - a fire police learned about from SRS records.
"I'm telling you the honest truth. I've never done anything like that," Rose said after Squire questioned him about the incident.
Squire pressured Rose after Rose repeatedly denied setting a glove on fire as the SRS report said.
"Is that because we're talking about a fire at your apartment?" Squire asked during the taped interview.
"No," Rose said. "I don't remember ever, ever doing that."
"I think you do. I think you do, Jason," Squire said.
"No," Rose said.
"I think you do, and you're not telling us because of what we're investigating," Squire said.
Rose eventually admitted he was curious about fire.
Squire asked Rose if his curiosity stemmed from his history of abuse. For example, the scars he had on his arms where his father allegedly burned him with a cigarette lighter.
Jurors continue to listen to the taped interview.
Key moments in the Boardwalk Fire timeline:
- Oct. 7, 2005: Fire destroys apartment building
- Oct. 7, 2005: 6News video: Interim Fire Chief Mark Bradford talks with reporters at a mid-morning Friday news conference.
- Oct. 11, 2005: Family, friends identify three victims
- Oct. 12, 2005: Arrest made in deadly fire
- Nov.15, 2005: Law firm: Fire alarms didn't work during blaze
- Feb. 23, 2006: Birthday cards may have sparked blaze
- Feb. 24, 2006: Agent: Design helped fire's spread
- More about Jason Allen Rose