In an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal found no prejudicial error in the introduction of evidence of a four year old arson to the insured’s vehicle in an insured’s trial for arson and insurance fraud involving his business.
Valerio’s business was having financial difficulty. Six weeks after taking out a business insurance policy, a fire occurred. The investigation revealed gasoline and road flares were used to start the fire. Four years earlier, Valerio had presented an insurance claim for arson to his vehicle which also involved the use of gasoline and road flares. (The claim was paid and no criminal charges were brought.) Valerio was convicted of arson and insurance fraud, based in part on this prior act evidence. On appeal, he claimed the introduction of the prior arson was prejudicial. The appellate court affirmed, concluding that the evidence of the prior fire was not inadmissible, because “other act” evidence may be admitted when relevant to prove some other material fact, including intent, knowledge, identity, motive, or the existence of a common design or plan.
To view the opinion, click HERE.
In every country, particularly in highly industrialized ones, fire kills a significant percentage of people. In the U.S., it is one of the five leading causes of accidental death with about 3,500 fire deaths reported per year (12 per million population).1 In the UK, 451 fire-related deaths were reported in 2008 (7.1 deaths/1000 dwelling fires or 7.3 per million population).2 Scotland reported only 47 fire fatalities in 2010-11 and 59 for 2009-10.3 These figures are about half of what they were in the 1970’s. The involvement of the investigator or forensic specialist in fatal fires can come in any form, from any sector, and challenge one’s talents and knowledge to come to just and accurate conclusions. These cases require the highest degree of cooperation between the investigators who all have contributions to make towards a successful investigation. When deaths occur in a fire, the event becomes the focus of the press and the public as well as police, fire, insurance, and forensic professionals. When problems occur, they can have far-reaching consequences.
From Out of the Abyss...
This week's article is from the March 1956 VOL II, No 3 issue of the California Conference of Arson Investigators newsletter. It was written by George W. Lacy.
"What Constitutes Evidence", Analyzed Unusual Evidence for Scientific Identification.
Eldorado National-Kansas (Eldorado) is recalling certain model year 2010-2015 Amerivan and Amerivan 10 vehicles manufactured September 1, 2009, to March 28, 2016 on Dodge and Chrysler minivan chassis. The crimp fastener on the fuel line assembly of the affected vehicles may not be fully crimped, allowing fuel to leak at the hose to fitting assembly.
Find the details at NHTSA
This recall involves Rheem brand “Performance Platinum” electric water heaters in 40, 50 and 80 gallon capacities. The recalled water heaters are gray and have the “Performance Platinum” Rheem logo decal on the front above the thermostat control panel. The water heaters have a rating plate near the bottom of the unit with the model number, date of manufacture and serial number. Recalled water heaters have the following model number and have a serial number within the following ranges:
Serial Number Ranges
A0114XXXXX to A5214XXXXX
M0114XXXXX to M5214XXXXX
Q0114XXXXX to Q5214XXXXX
A1015XXXXX to A1615XXXXX
01Jan2014 – 21Dec2014
03Mar2015 – 13Apr2015
03Mar2015 – 13Apr2015
1Jan2014 – 21Dec2014
CCAI was recently contacted by CBS (San Francisco) News Investigative Reporter, Julie Watts, regarding fire retardant chemicals in child car seats, and was looking for footage of burning vehicles. We were happy to help.
SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Car seats are the only consumer product that parents are legally required to purchase in every state, though they are also commonly used outside of the car as strollers seats, swing inserts and as a place for babies to sleep inside the home.
A recent KPIX investigation repeatedly uncovered concerning, even cancer-causing, chemicals in a majority of the car seats tested. Then, using biomonitoring, we linked high levels of cancer-causing flame retardants in a child’s body to the flame retardants in her car seat.
The alleged culprit: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 44-year old Federal Motor Vehicle Flammability Standard, FMVSS No. 302.
Click here for the video
Click on the link to see the full investigation.
Toxic Safety: Investigating Car Seat Chemicals
The Central Valley Arson Investigators association continued the tradition of providing outstanding training at their annual Advanced Explosive Recognition class. The training was held once again at the Tulare International Agri-Center grounds. This year’s topic was the history of the American criminal bombings. Guest speaker Ed Nordskog, LA Sheriff’s Department, lead the class through the history of American bombings, from the earliest bombings in America right up to the most current-day events.
While in the classroom, we were given a taste of what was to come in the afternoon on the range, a few large booms came from the range-site, and this, of course, sparked the interest of the attendees filling the room with anticipation for the afternoon’s activities. I’m not really sure if that was part of the scheduled shots, or if Frank just couldn’t wait to try out his handy work.
Thanks to Geary Baxter and his crew, everyone was treated to a hot dog lunch with all the fixings, chips, chili, and drinks. Shade covered bleachers were provided to keep the sun off the students during the demonstrations. The range was arranged with several props from mail boxes (fairly close to the bleachers), to two transit buses and an ambulance several hundred feet down range. And, of course, there was a pressure cooker, which was placed down range, so that we could see the effects of a device similar to the one used in Boston.
The students were given the count down, so they could get their cameras ready to capture the moment, “Fire in the hole, three, two, one”! Our very own Scotty Baker, the voice of the AER range, would call out when each prop was ready to be set off. This year had more than its fair share of silence when the charge was supposed to go off. After making our first run down range to get a closer look (and see the handy work of the Sheriff’s bomb team), it was clear what had happened, the fragmentation from the first explosions took out the six-pair lead-in wire. By the way, the trip down range was in a people mover provided by CVAI; these guys think of everything.
The class was attended by nearly one hundred and fifty students from police, fire, and evidence people from all over the state. There was even a fellow from New York City in the class (and I thought it was a long drive from San Diego). There was great representation from the CCAI elected officials; President Scotty Baker, First Vice-president Tom Peirce, Second Vice-president Eric Emmanuele, Director Dale Feb, and myself Director Troy Morrison.
Thanks to all the folks at Central Valley Arson Investigators for all their hard work!! Another great training class. We are all looking forward for what is in store for next year when the theme for the AER class will be “First Responders”.
Troy Morrison, PIO CCAI
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