Archive for Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Witnesses paint new picture of Rose, fire

Foster parent says defendant ‘absolutely’ falsely confessed under pressure in past

May 9, 2007


Defense continues to make its case in Jason Rose Trial

The defense continues to make its case in the trial of a Lawrence man accused of setting a massive apartment fire that claimed three lives. Enlarge video

A defense expert on Tuesday criticized the state's investigation of a deadly apartment fire, saying he thought there were "quite a bit of discrepancies and problems" in the investigation that led to the suspect who's now on trial.

"A fire investigation is like any other investigation. It is a jigsaw puzzle, and you should try and locate as many pieces as possible," said Curtis Huckshorn, a fire consultant who is chief of the Central Cass County Fire Protection District in Missouri. He said he thought prosecutors had "maybe three pieces of the puzzle."

Huckshorn testified that it couldn't be ruled out that the fire at the Boardwalk Apartments was accidental and that it's likely the fire started on the first floor of the building, rather than on the second floor as prosecutors claim. In response, prosecutors spent much of the afternoon picking apart Huckshorn's work on the case.

Huckshorn took the stand on the second day of testimony by defense witnesses in the murder and arson trial of Jason A. Rose, who is charged with killing three people and injuring seven others in the Oct. 7, 2005, fire. Other witnesses on Tuesday included Rose's foster care father figure, Robert Kidder, who testified that Rose didn't have a reputation in foster care as a fire starter and that Rose once admitted under pressure that he stole a pair of gloves from another group home resident - even though the gloves later turned up.

"He had confessed to something he didn't do?" defense attorney Ron Evans asked.

"Absolutely," Kidder said.

Investigation criticized

Evans is trying to make the case that Rose's videotaped confession to police, in which he admitted setting fire to a box full of paperwork outside the building's second floor, may have been coerced, given Rose's limited mental ability. Huckshorn's testimony about the fire aimed to paint the picture that the fire couldn't have started the way Rose claimed it did in the confession.

Huckshorn said his review of the case included looking through written reports and photographs from the investigation and talking to Rose and the apartment complex's manager. In his view, he said, there were only two scenarios that could have caused the fire to spread so quickly: one was that "quite a bit of flammable or combustible liquids were used," and the other was that some apartment or utility room on the first floor "had been cooking for hours, and finally broke loose, which gave a tremendous amount of heat availability to catch the rest of the apartment building on fire."

Investigators found no traces of accelerants at the fire scene.

Huckshorn pointed out that a federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who testified last week showed the jury a picture of one door from the first floor that wasn't substantially damaged by fire. At the time, the ATF agent, Doug Moore, said that lent evidence to the theory that the fire didn't start on the first floor.

"The problem," Huckshorn said, "is there are 12 doors on the first floor. Where are ... the other 11?"

Huckshorn also said he found 11 references in witnesses' statements to electrical problems in the building and 11 references to people hearing some kind of an explosion.


But on cross-examination, he acknowledged to Assistant District Attorney David Melton that there were no witnesses who described hearing an explosion before they saw fire, and that all the explosions they described happened once the building already was burning.

Huckshorn said there were 12 eyewitnesses accounts that lent support to a finding that the fire began on the first floor - for example, second-floor resident Shelby Oaks' account that she stepped on burning-hot linoleum on the floor of her apartment, and other first-floor residents' claim that they saw the stairwells on their floor on fire.

But when Melton asked Huckshorn to discuss each of the 12 witnesses one at a time, some of them didn't hold up to scrutiny.

For example, one witness Huckshorn included in the tally actually told investigators that he was on the bottom floor and saw flames coming from overhead, according to reports Melton cited in court. Another witness included in the tally said he saw the fire appear to be spreading from the third floor of the building down to the first.

"I'm not sure why I had that one," Huckshorn said.

Huckshorn also acknowledged to Melton that he hadn't read parts of the investigative file, including the reports from the witnesses who are believed to be the first ones to see the fire and claim they saw it on the second floor.

Disputed state records

Other defense witnesses Tuesday included Kimberley S. Smith, an employee of the state's department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, who testified about contents of a 7,500-page file that documents Rose's time growing up in state custody. She cited an incident in which Rose was implicated for a smoldering glove found in a trash can, six incidents of playing with matches or lighters when he was 7 or 8, and a time he made a threat to blow up a house.

But in response to defense attorney Evans' questions, Smith did not cite any clear-cut instances of fire-setting reflected in the file while he was in state custody.

On cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Amy McGowan, Smith acknowledged that Rose did receive counseling for fire-setting behaviors, according to the documents.

"There must have been some incidents of fire-setting behavior" in the file, McGowan said.

"Yes," Smith answered.

Today likely will be the last day the defense calls witnesses in the trial. Prosecutors rested their case Monday after testimony from about two dozen witnesses.


Ragingbear 10 years, 11 months ago

Looks like typical corrupt defense tactics. Disputing established evidence by double talk. The fire could not have started on the first floor, as that area is lined with concrete, the other areas are all made of wood. That "explosion" people heard was a floor collapsing. The stairwells were not quite on fire, but did have fire in them. The way that place was designed caused flames to funnel through the stairwells. I remember noticing that the fire in them seemed far more intense than in other areas.

They also need to get off the entire intent thing. One can reasonably assume that a fire would be the result of setting stuff on fire there. That makes leaving a box of cards and letters on fire while you walk a half block away to your apartment arson.

I would like to point out to people currently living in the Boardwalk Apartments that that place is beyond a firetrap. That fire spread way too quickly, but was not aided by an accelerent. All that old wood, dry rot, cheap paint, tar lined roofing, and other elements contributed greatly to that fire. When I was there, I had mentioned a few times that if a fire ever got started there that the place would go up like a box of matches. It didn't. It went up like a box of matches soaked in kerosene.

TheGoldenBoy 10 years, 11 months ago

Reading that last paragraph of Ragingbear's post brought back memories of when I lived at Southpointe Appartments on 26th St. It sucks having to live at these cheap, neglected, low-end places. Not to mention the crap that goes on at these places and the reluctance of the managment to do anything to correct the problems. One of my goals in life is to become a homeowner!

Confrontation 10 years, 11 months ago

Hmmm...I wonder why the foster parents would want Rose to seem like a sweet angel? Could it be to make themselves look like they did a good job? No, I'm sure they couldn't be that concerned with their image.

Bob Kidder 10 years, 11 months ago

Confrontation (interesting name considering your anonymity), The house parents have not said that Jason is an angel; he is, however, a sweet young man. Anyone who knows Jason would say the same thing only because it is true not because it "seems" true.

Confrontation 10 years, 11 months ago

Yes, every "sweet young man" loves to set a fire and kill several people. Sorry, I must have my "sweet" and "evil" confused. Also, anyone can use any name they want on here, so being anonymous is just as credible. By the way, confrontation has nothing to do with anonymity.

Dr_crazy_go_nutz 10 years, 11 months ago

I could see how you get that oppinion if you get all you information from the LJworld who did not cover any major points in the case so far than yes he may seem that way. though the only evedence they have against him is a shakey confession useing shifty interogation tactics and manipulation which you would know if you watched even and hour of the tape or even half. and the testimony of some crazy chick who I have known to make up storys for the sole purpose of attention. finaly anyone who has even met jason know him to be a very kind and sweet person anger and violence is not a part of who he is. also how can you confront something if you are too afraid to show who you are?

Crossfire 10 years, 10 months ago

Huckshorn A huckster is a seller of small articles, usually of cheap or shoddy quality, or one engaged in haggling or making petty bargains, that is, a certain type of peddler or hawker.

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