News >> Browse Articles >> Fallen Firefighter


Man Testifies He Was Paid $20 to Start Fire that Killed FF

Man Testifies He Was Paid $20 to Start Fire that Killed FF

Stock Photo

The Detroit News via YellowBrix

April 22, 2010

DETROIT – Dorian Dove wept Wednesday as he testified that he was paid $20 to set a house fire that killed a Detroit firefighter.

“It shouldn’t have happened,” said Dove, who has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is a key witness in the trial of the man accused of paying for the 2008 blaze that killed 19-year veteran Detroit firefighter Walter Harris.

Mario Willis is on trial before Wayne County Circuit Judge Michael Callahan for arson and felony murder. Willis, who faces a possible life sentence, said Wednesday that Dove is lying.

“I didn’t do it,” Willis told The Detroit News. “My heart definitely goes out to the Harris family. After this is over, if there is anything I can do for the family or our firefighter, I’ll do it.”

Willis owns several businesses in Detroit and was once honored by the City Council with a Spirit of Detroit Award.

Harris died when the roof collapsed. They had been alerted to the 4 a.m. fire on Nov. 15, 2008, by a 911 call Dove said he made as he and Willis watched the fire from a block away.

“Walter was one of the finest men I have ever known,” Detroit Fire Capt. Steve Kirschner, who also responded to the fire, said in an interview. “Anyone who Walter ever touched misses him deeply. He had been that kind of great family man and proponent for his city, Detroit.”

Dove, who is expected to be sentenced Friday to a minimum of 17 years in prison, said it wasn’t the first time he had been asked by Willis to set fire to the house.

Dove had worked for Willis, who owned a landscaping business and several homes in Detroit. He said Willis asked him to “do a light burn” on the house on Kirby Street. The objective was to receive an insurance payment or escape a mortgage that Dove believed was in arrears.

The first fire on Sept. 17, 2007, resulted in minor damage. When asked to set another fire on Nov. 15, 2008, Dove said he was given $20 and was promised he’d be given a “nice” truck to drive.

The trial is in its third day.