Witnesses Told Cops Man Discussed NH Fire
San Jose Mercury News via YellowBrix
July 16, 2010
CONCORD, N.H.—New information released Thursday in a quadruple murder case shows that at least nine people told Keene police after the 1989 fire that the man now charged in the case either threatened to burn down the apartment building or bragged that he had done it.
One key witness, however, stonewalled the investigation by refusing to give a sworn statement and showing up drunk to a grand jury proceeding, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Others concluded that David McLeod, now 53, was drunk and ranting to get attention when he claimed credit for setting the fire that killed a family of four in Keene on Jan. 14, 1989, the affidavit said.
McLeod was arraigned Thursday on four counts of second-degree murder and is being held without bond. A probable cause hearing has been set for July 23 to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to justify the charges.
McLeod was charged June 30 in California after investigators with the New Hampshire State Police Cold Case Unit spent six months interviewing witnesses and experts about the fire.
An FBI arson profiler told investigators last month that the fire was a means for McLeod to exact revenge against people who lived in the building and had beaten or insulted him, including a former girlfriend.
Ten days after the fire, McLeod refused a request by detectives to take a polygraph test and left the state. An affidavit released Thursday said there is no evidence he ever returned to New Hampshire.
The affidavit said Dr. Thomas Andrews, the state medical examiner, is in the process of amending the death certificates issued on the fire victims to change the manner of death from “accident” to “arson of a multifamily apartment building.” Killed in the fire were newlyweds Carl and Lori Hina, their 4-month-old daughter, Lillian, and Carl Hina’s 12-year-old daughter, Sara.
Many witnesses interviewed by police at the time said McLeod was drunk and high on cocaine in the hours before the fire and kept making bizarre references to popular horror movies and their murderous fictional characters. The eve of the fire was Friday, Jan. 13.
Bonnie Faulkner was with her boyfriend, McLeod and another man when she heard McLeod making references to “blowing up the Hilton,” his nickname for the apartment building on High Street, the affidavit said.
“He talked about using gas,” Faulkner told police, less than four days after the fire. “He also said something to the effect that it was Friday the 13th and Freddy is back and that it would be a nightmare on High Street.”
Faulkner’s boyfriend, Kurt Frazier, told investigators this year that McLeod returned to Frazier’s apartment and said he had started a fire at the High Street house. McLeod told Frazier he got angry with a male resident of the house who bullied him, so he climbed the fire escape and set ablaze a couch through an open second-floor window, the affidavit said.
Frazier told police this year he was distrustful of Keene detectives in 1989, refused to give a sworn statement and showed up at a grand jury proceeding drunk, the affidavit said. That was part of what prompted prosecutors at the time not to seek an indictment.
The couch where the fire started was in the apartment of Sandy Walker, who told police after the fire that she was drunk and may have set the sofa ablaze when she fell asleep while smoking, the affidavit said. Three days after the fire, Keene police issued a press release saying the likely cause of the fire was smoking materials in Walker’s apartment. Many witnesses said that made them think McLeod hadn’t set the fire after all, the affidavit said.
McLeod’s ex-girlfriend, Wanda Ford, told investigators this year that she didn’t report threats McLeod made to burn down her building in the weeks before the fire because she didn’t believe him.
“Wanda Ford informed (cold case) investigators that she harbors intense guilt for what happened to the Hinas and her knowledge of McLeod’s threats,” the affidavit states.
After McLeod’s arrest, his family issued a statement saying he had not been sought by police in connection with the fire investigation and expressed hope New Hampshire authorities would “sort out what we feel is a misunderstanding.”