Wednesday, 04 May 2016 09:27

Kennel Arson Who is responsible for a fire that killed over 60 dogs?

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CASE DETAILS Mabel hired Charlie as a night watchman In Bonne Terre, Missouri, Mabel Woods had dedicated many years of her life running an animal sanctuary on a sprawling 110 acre farm. The sanctuary provided a loving and caring home for dogs that might otherwise have been impounded. She even built a $60,000 kennel to house her 115 dogs. The dogs were offered for adoption, but those that didn’t find new homes lived out their lives on the sanctuary. Mabel felt the farm was in an ideal location because her nearest neighbors were over a mile away and would not be disturbed by the dogs. But eighteen months after she moved to the farm, Mabel’s peaceful life was shattered. One the night of December 11, 1986, someone broke into her kennel. The intruder fired at least four rounds from a .22 caliber rifle, killing two dogs and seriously wounding two others. Mabel was devastated: “The next morning when I went up to open the kennel, I found my dogs dead. In the beginning, I thought, oh, there’s been a fight. They’ve killed each other. But as I looked, I realized that they had been shot… I was upset about it, and I called the sheriff’s office, but I knew there was nothing, really nothing that could be done at that point.” Firemen determined it was “spalling” Police officials investigated the shooting. But because the killing of an animal is only a misdemeanor, the case was given a low priority. After the shooting, Mabel hired a man named Charlie Jacobs to help out around the kennel. Charlie moved into the guesthouse and doubled as a hired hand and night watchman. For two months, nothing unusual happened. Mabel and Charlie settled into a comfortable routine. Then on the night of February 10, 1987, Charlie was in his kitchen when he noticed a bright orange glow through the window. Fifty yards away, the kennel was on fire. By the time Charlie reached the kennel, it was completely engulfed in flames. Inside were 60 dogs. According to Charlie, the animals had no way to escape: “It was awful. The flames were real high, and you could hear the yips every once in a while, and the place was on fire, I mean, it’s like an inferno.” Police found a tire track 100 yards away Charlie managed to pull one dog from the flames, but could do nothing to save the others. The fire was so intense that it set off smoke alarms in homes over a mile away. According to Mabel, there was no reason for the kennel to burn: “The kennel was so new, a great deal of it was green lumber. I knew it had to be arson, because the dogs were blazing, which they would not have been without something put on them. As I watched the kennel come down to the ground and realized that my dogs were all dead… I just couldn’t imagine why anyone would do that. There just wasn’t anything left except a few scraps of metal and the concrete.” Four days after the blaze, the local volunteer fire department began an investigation, headed by investigator Charlie Geesing: “We wanted to clean off the debris of the barn, to get a look at the floor. We started to see a pattern that’s called ‘spalling.’” “Spalling” occurs when a flammable substance is ignited on concrete. According to Charlie Geesing, the extreme heat causes the concrete to crack or erode: “This pattern is not normal in a fire and led us to the assumption that the fire was set with a flammable liquid. We believe that night that the suspect entered the building through the door they used normally to get between the two rows of pens. He entered the building, poured the flammable liquid down the walls as he went in. The hallway led to a bigger open area at the far end. He continued pouring the wall. At that point, he probably lit it. And then he took off.” Once it was determined that arson was the cause of the fire, police officials joined the investigation. One hundred yards from where the kennel once stood, police found a tire track in the mud. They made a plaster mold of the track. According to Sheriff Jack Cade of the St. Francis County Sheriff’s Department, the plaster mold and spalling pattern burned into the kennel floor are the only evidence police have in this case: “We don’t have any leads, don’t have any suspects that haven’t been eliminated. Most of the people that you find in this part of the country are dog lovers. We have dogs, we have hunting dogs, we care a lot about our dogs. There are people in this county, who would shoot you a whole lot quicker over their dog than they would their wife.” Within ten months of the fire, Mabel had built a new kennel. She is still haunted by the memory of that tragic night and fears that whoever was responsible may strike again at any time. The person who burned down Mabel’s kennel has never been caught and the case is still open.
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