No one at any time reported smelling gasoline inside the Meadows apartment building, especially the firehall residents, and the fire lacked other basic characteristics of a gasoline fire.
Firehall residents did not even know there was a fire or anything else wrong in their hallway and stairwell until the fire alarm sounded. They didn’t report hearing any explosion.
Ron was suspected and accused of arson simply because he smelled like gasoline, having accidentally spilled gasoline on himself at a church parking lot around 9:45 pm, about 2 hours before the fire. Ron spilled the gasoline while moving containers around in his truck to get containers to fill at the church’s community water well.
There were no explosions, which is extremely unusual for a closed-space, gasoline fire. Both the hallway and adjacent stairwell were separately closed off by doors, making it possible for two explosions, not just one.
Imagine that if a 1.7-ton vehicle gets only 32 mpg, then a half gallon is more than enough to drive or instantly propel the vehicle over 16 miles; and one cup of gasoline would be enough to drive or instantly propel the vehicle 2 miles. That amount of energy inside the closed hallway or stairwell at the Meadows would have exploded and blown out the windows and doors. It likely would have seriously injured or killed everyone around, including the “arsonist.”
If it had actually been a gasoline fire in the closed hallway and stairwell, the heat generated would have been far greater than it was. Gasoline generates 33 kWh/gallon, meaning that a gallon of gasoline would have instantly generated an hour’s worth of heat from 33 1000-Watt space heaters. That amount of heat would have at least blistered the paint on the walls, if not burned down that whole wing of the building, in addition to the rapid expansion of the air to cause a large explosion.
The fire started at about 11:30-11:35 pm, given the rate of burning and smoke generation shown in surveillance footage. The fire alarm sounded at 11:47. But Ron was only recorded in the fire area at 10:07 (1 hr 40 min earlier) and, having exited, was shown elsewhere in other footage at 10:10.
When Ron briefly entered the would-be fire area at 10:07 pm, he carried no liquid container to possibly hold and disperse the alleged flammable liquid.
There’s no evidence provided by Prosecution to indicate Ron was in or around the building between 11:15 pm when he exits the building and the fire alarm sounding at 11:47—no witnesses claiming to have seen Ron, and no external or internal building surveillance provided to indicate Ron’s location. Ron was not on the property when the fire started.
Ron was shown exiting the building at 11:15 pm, to take a 1.1-mile walk. When the fire started at approximately 11:30-11:35, Ron was about 0.5 miles away from the building, pausing to witness and observe a documented police traffic stop. Ron described seeing this traffic stop to a female investigating officer (her record has not been provided to Defense), as well as to the detaining officer, and later in Ron’s jailhouse interrogation.
Ron couldn’t have known about the above-mentioned traffic stop if he hadn’t been there to witness and observe it, having had no opportunity to learn of the traffic stop after returning to the Meadows Apartments, where he was constantly observable, then detained and ultimately transported to jail. Ron’s disability (diseased heart and pacemaker) prevents him from any rushing, like running the 0.5 miles back to start the fire.
Someone unintentionally drizzled or leaked a flammable liquid where the fire occurred. Defense hasn’t been provided any surveillance of the fire area between 10:07 when Ron entered the area and 11:47 when the fire alarm sounded, to show who spilled the flammable liquid or who was present at its ignition.
Investigators and Prosecution claim the fire was manually set but have not suggested how. They have utterly disregarded the high probabilities of accidental ignition by static discharge, friction, a smoker’s light-up or cigarette ember, or the inductive/capacitive discharge of a 7.2-kV power transformer in the spill pathway on the way to the dumpster.
This fire was out before the firemen even arrived, and there was no significant damage. The fire in the stairwell fully self-extinguished. Ron put out the hallway’s few remaining, trivial patches of fire. Real gasoline fires in buildings do not extinguish themselves without having caused catastrophic surface or structural damage. (There was no fire suppression sprinkler system installed in the Meadows at the time of the fire.)
The carpet’s burn pattern indicates that the likely alcohol-based flammable liquid was dripping from close to the ground, such as from a leaking garbage bag. If it had been an arson fire, with intent to cause damage, wide splashes would have been expected, poured and splashed at considerable height from the floor.
The initial suspect (the man in the red shirt) suffered serious smoke inhalation and was hospitalized, despite limited provided surveillance showing his minimal, indirect exposure to the fire smoke. Ron, two elderly women, and an older gentleman are all shown in surveillance having spent much more time around the smoke but didn’t require any medical attention.
Investigators possessed the whole 24 hours of building surveillance for May 19th, 2018, but only provided Defense with some of the videos of 4 cameras between 10:07pm and 11:59pm, plus a 12:06am video (from nearly 24 hours before the fire) and a 7:02am video. Of the 15 indoor cameras and 2 crucial external cameras, the Defense has only received videos from 4 indoor cameras. This limited surveillance footage was only provided to the Defense many months after the fire!
The 2 outside surveillance cameras (footage not provided) would have also captured any nefarious activity relative to Ron’s truck and the gasoline container in it. Without any evidence, investigators claim that gasoline was taken specifically from that container in Ron’s truck and was then distributed inside the building where the fire would later occur.
A thin, burnt path of a drizzled/dripped flammable liquid—that burned like an alcohol, not gasoline—showed where the liquid had leaked on the carpet on the way to the outside dumpster, and the only areas that were burned were within inches of where the spills occurred. Such a boundary-constrained burn never happens with a gasoline fire!
The trail of flammable liquid ended on the third-to-last step in the stairwell. On that step (as shown in the image below) there is a burn area shaped exactly like a square, slightly overlapping an oval-shaped burn. These shapes on the third-to-last step indicate that objects were placed on that step while the liquid leaked under them, and that the fire started within seconds of when the objects were placed there. The stairwell exits through a 1-way exit door and is a path to the nearby outside dumpster. A leaking garbage bag was momentarily placed onto the third step while the exit door was being propped open to allow reentry.