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- Commentto story "Jurors watch taped police interrogation of Rose"(02-09-07)
Jurors on Friday watched a videotape of a defendant admitting he burned a box full of cards and photographs that sparked the deadly fire at Lawrence's Boardwalk Apartments.
"I have a problem with fire. : I just wanted to see something burn," Jason A. Rose tells detectives in the video.
But like many of the other stories Rose told detectives during his roughly eight hours of interrogation, the story has holes. He says in the video that the box had been mailed to him by his estranged father days earlier, but detectives interviewed Rose's father and he said he didn't send it, according to testimony.
"Did you feel when the interview ended that you had the whole story as to what happened that night?" prosecutor Amy McGowan asked Lawrence police Sgt. Troy Squire, who interviewed Rose.
"No," Squire answered.
The confession - which defense attorneys say is dubious, given Rose's limited mental ability - was shown on the fourth day of testimony in Rose's trial. He's charged with first-degree murder, arson and aggravated battery for an Oct. 7, 2005, fire that killed three people - Kansas University student Nicole Bingham, electrician Jose Gonzalez and social worker Yolanda Riddle - and injured many more.
The video shows Rose finally admitting to Squire and federal investigator Christy Weidner - after about eight hours of denials and changing stories - that he walked up to the second floor of the building that night and set a paper box on fire. He gives two locations - at first saying it was in the portion of the building labeled 516, then later saying it was at 518.
He first tells them the box was empty, then says it had been sent to him a couple days earlier by his father and was full of pictures and cards. Rose was separated from his father and placed into foster care as a preschooler after he suffered physical and sexual abuse, according to testimony.
"What did you do with the box?" one of the detectives asks in the video.
"Lit it on fire," Rose says.
Friday was the third straight day jurors had watched his videotaped interview with police. After the video ended, Squire remained on the witness stand.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Ron Evans questioned Squire about how much he knew about Rose's mental difficulties, including post-traumatic stress disorder and a learning disability. Squire acknowledged receiving documents by fax shortly before interviewing Rose that detailed his history in state custody, but he said he looked through the stack quickly, scanning for instances of firestarting.
Evans asked whether Squire read a social worker's assessment, contained in the documents, that Rose was a "young boy in a young man's body."
"What I saw was a person living on their own who had two jobs, had a driver's license," Squire said.
Evans asked whether Squire had someone off-screen during the video giving him suggestions on how to get Rose to confess.
"I'm not trying to get him to say anything specifically, other than the truth," Squire said.
Evans raised his voice and asked, "You're not? Really?"
Other witnesses Friday included fire investigator Doug Moore, a South Dakota-based special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who testified that he concluded the fire started on the second floor of the building near a stairwell in the 516 section of the building.
Also, victim Shelby James testified about jumping to safety from her second-story apartment during the fire. She suffered second-degree burns through her socks from stepping on melted linoleum and cut her arm punching out her window.
Testimony is scheduled to resume Monday, and the trial is set to conclude by the end of next week.