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Thread: Worcester Cold Storage 1999 Fire Back To Court Manslaughter Charges

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    Worcester Cold Storage 1999 Fire Back To Court Manslaughter Charges

    Supreme Judicial Court reinstates manslaughter charges in Worcester fire

    Wednesday, March 27, 2002



    WORCESTER-- The state Supreme Judicial Court has reinstated involuntary manslaughter charges against two former homeless people in connection with a 1999 warehouse fire that took the lives of six firefighters.
    In a unanimous decision released yesterday, the state's highest court reversed a Superior Court judge's ruling dismissing the charges against Thomas S. Levesque and Julie Ann King, formerly known as Julie Ann Barnes.
    Mr. Levesque and Miss King, who occasionally stayed in the vacant Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. building on Franklin Street where the Dec. 3, 1999 blaze occurred, were accused of failing to report the fire after accidentally starting it by knocking over a candle during an argument.
    In a Sept. 19, 2000 ruling, Superior Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman allowed a defense motion to dismiss the charges. Judge Hillman found that the evidence presented to the grand jury that indicted Mr. Levesque and Miss Barnes was insufficient to support the indictments.
    According to Judge Hillman's findings, the defendants had no legal duty to report the fire and their failure to act did not meet the standard of wanton and reckless conduct required for manslaughter charges.
    Acting on District Attorney John J. Conte's appeal, the SJC found that the evidence presented to the grand jury was sufficient to sustain the charges and overturned Judge Hillman's dismissals. The SJC remanded the case to Worcester Superior Court.


    Friday, March 29, 2002



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Copyright 2002 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.

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    Firefighter Death Charges Reinstated

    Firefighter Death Charges Reinstated

    DENISE LAVOIE
    Associated Press Writer

    BOSTON, Massachusettes (AP) -- An appeals court reinstated involuntary manslaughter charges Friday against a homeless couple who allegedly sparked a fire in a Worcester warehouse that killed six firefighters.

    The decision overturns a lower court's ruling that dismissed the charges.

    Julie Ann Barnes and Thomas S. Levesque were indicted two months after the Dec. 3, 1999 blaze. Authorities said they accidentally sparked and fled the fire at the abandoned Worcester Cold Storage warehouse, and then failed to report it.

    As the fire grew, firefighters responded. Six were killed trying to rescue homeless people they thought might still be inside.

    Superior Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman dismissed charges against the couple in September 2000, ruling that prosecutors hadn't shown sufficient evidence. But the Supreme Judicial Court ruled Friday that the grand jury did have enough evidence for an indictment.

    ``The Commonwealth has presented sufficient evidence to allow a grand jury to conclude that the defendants' choice not to report the fire was intentional and reckless,'' the appeals court ruled.

    The court also said the defendants tried to put out the fire, which demonstrated they knew it was spreading rapidly. The court also noted they had a cellular phone and passed several stores after they fled from which they could have called for help.

    Attorney Edward Ryan, who represents Levesque, said he was disappointed by Friday's ruling. The case will now go to a circuit court.

    ``The Supreme Judicial Court has essentially said that the question of whether they are responsible or not is for the jury to determine at trial,'' Ryan said. ``This does not mean that they're automatically guilty of manslaughter.''

    Barnes, now known as Julie King, was adopted after the fire by the same family in Maine who adopted her sister, Jennifer. She now works full-time as a hotel housekeeper. She gave birth to a son, Joshua, while she was awaiting trial on the involuntary manslaughter charges.

    Her former boyfriend Levesque lives in Worcester and is currently unemployed, Ryan said.

    Related:

    Firehouse.com's Complete Coverage of The Worcester Tragedy

    http://www.firehouse.com/news/2002/3/29_APdeat.html

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    TRIAL MAY BRING CLOSURE FOR WORCESTER FIREFIGHTER FAMILIES

    Jury trial may bring closure to firefighters' families

    Saturday, March 30, 2002

    By Shaun Sutner
    Telegram & Gazette Staff


    WORCESTER-- George Yantsides remembers Thomas S. Levesque and Julie Ann King all too well from the days before the warehouse blaze that claimed the lives of six city firefighters.
    The bedraggled homeless couple were a familiar sight in the area. Mr. Levesque often got coffee at Mr. Yantsides' Kenmore Diner, next to the empty lot where the century-old building once stood. Miss King, formerly Julie Ann Barnes, would stay outside holding their cat.
    Now, Mr. Yantsides agrees with yesterday's court decision reinstating manslaughter charges against the pair, who accidentally started the fire in the vacant building in which they lived.

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    SJC Reinstates Charges vs. Pair in Worcester Fire

    SJC reinstates charges vs. pair in Worcester fire

    by Doug Hanchett
    Saturday, March 30, 2002









    In a landmark decision sure to reignite the argument over culpability and compassion, the state's highest court yesterday reinstated manslaughter charges against the homeless couple who accidentally set the 1999 warehouse blaze that killed six Worcester firefighters.

    In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court overturned

    Worcester Superior Court Judge Timothy Hillman's decision to toss out grand jury indictments against Thomas Levesque and Julie Barnes, who started the deadly inferno and then left to go to a nearby mall without calling 911.

    ``We are not faced with the situation of a mere passerby who observes a fire and fails to alert authorities,'' Justice Judith Cowin wrote in the court's opinion. ``The defendants started the fire and then increased the risk of harm from that fire by allowing it to burn without (reporting it).''

    Eighteen months ago Hillman ruled that the actions of the two squatters ``did not rise to the level of wanton and reckless conduct'' - the common law standard for manslaughter as established as a result of Boston's horrific Cocoanut Grove blaze in 1942 that killed 492.

    But Worcester County District Attorney John Conte appealed the ruling and found an agreeable SJC.

    ``(Hillman) concluded that one who negligently creates a risk of death or injury to others is free to walk away from that risk without taking steps to minimize the danger. We disagree,'' said the court's opinion.

    The fire erupted in the mazelike Worcester Cold Storage & Warehouse Co. building on Dec. 3, 1999, after Levesque and Barnes got in a love spat. It ultimately claimed the lives of firefighters Paul Brotherton, Timothy Jackson, James ``Jay'' Lyons, Jeremiah Lucey, Joseph McGuirk and Thomas Spencer, who rushed in to search for the squatters known to inhabit the abandoned, trash-strewn building.

    Almost two years before tragedy was redefined by the events of Sept. 11, the heroic deeds of the six firefighters put Worcester in the national spotlight and even brought President Clinton to town for a somber memorial service.

    While Michelle Lucey and Linda McGuirk politely declined comment yesterday afternoon, Frank Raffa, president of the Worcester firefighters union, welcomed the SJC ruling.

    Raffa said ``it's only fair'' that Levesque and Barnes at least stand trial for starting the killer blaze.

    ``They just walked away from a crime that devastated the whole community,'' said Raffa. ``The lives of six firefighters mean something and if you're the cause of a fire that causes this kind of harm, then you need to be held accountable for it. . . . We had six firefighters killed and we had no accountability. That hurts more than anything.''

    Worcester Fire Chief Gerard Dio agreed.

    ``I've got six dead guys with parents and wives who cannot enjoy being with the people they love,'' Dio told the Associated Press. ``There are kids who cry every night because they don't have a father. So why should I let this go?''

    But attorneys for Barnes and Levesque, both of whom suffer from mental illness, said they were ``disappointed'' by the ruling.

    ``I thought the case was over, so to that end I'm disappointed,'' said Ed Ryan, Levesque's attorney. ``But . . . (this case) is very clearly not a done deal. It's now up to a jury to determine beyond a reasonable doubt whether their decision to not report a fire constituted wanton and reckless conduct.''

    Ryan said Levesque, who lives in Worcester but remains unemployed, was upset when he got the news. Levesque had been in jail until Hillman's ruling and could be sent back to await trial.

    ``He's pretty badly shaken by the turn of events,'' said Ryan. ``He's obviously concerned about having to go back to jail. . . . It would be my hope that he isn't reincarcerated or held on bail while this is being resolved.''

    Barnes has since moved to Maine after being adopted by the family that had earlier adopted her sister. Lou Aloise, her attorney, said his client's new family planned on shielding her from the news until Monday.

    ``I'm sure Julie is going to be devastated by this because she's going to equate going back to court with going back to jail,'' said Aloise.

    Both defense attorneys, meanwhile, expect the trial to start before the end of the year.

    ``I think psychologically this is an enormous cloud and burden on Julie's head,'' said Aloise. ``And from her perspective to have this put behind her (as soon as possible) is probably a good thing. And likewise I think it's important to have the families be able to bring this to some sort of conclusion as well.''

    Ryan and Aloise said they are considering seeking a change of venue because of the widespread publicity the case garnered and may also attempt to sever the two case
    http://www2.bostonherald.com/news/lo...rc03302002.htm

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    Probation deal may end case against homeless pair

    Probation deal may end case against homeless pair
    Thursday, May 30, 2002
    THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

    WORCESTER-- Charges will be dropped against two people who sparked a fire in an abandoned warehouse where six firefighters later died if the couple stays out of trouble for five years.
    As part of an agreement reached today, Thomas S. Levesque and Julie King will be on probation for five years, after which time the involuntary manslaughter charges would be dismissed.

    Levesque and King were homeless and living together in the Worcester Cold Storage warehouse in December 1999 when they knocked over a candle and igniting the blaze during a fight. They fled and did not report the fire.

    Two firefighters entered the building to rescue homeless people they thought might be trapped inside; when the firefighters became disoriented, four more firefighters entered. All six died.

    Worcester Superior Court Judge Daniel Toomey approved the deal at a brief hearing this morning.

    "The public and the defendants all agree the case should stop here,'' Toomey said. "That is the path of justice I'm sworn to. And that is what I will do.''

    The charges against couple were initially dismissed for lack of evidence by a superior court judge in September 2000. But in March, the Supreme Judicial Court overturned the ruling and reinstated the charges, saying there was sufficient evidence to conclude the couple's choice not to report the fire "was intentional and reckless.''

    The court said that Levesque and King tried to put out the fire and watched as it consumed their possessions, so they knew it was spreading. They also had a cellular phone and passed several open stores after fleeing the building, which the court said showed they had opportunities to report the fire.

    The couple knew they could have faced trespassing charges, giving them a motive to stay silent, the court said.

    The court rejected defense arguments that the couple had panicked, noting they went shopping and ate a meal after leaving the warehouse.

    Assistant District Attorney Larry Murphy said prosecutors consulted with firefighters before agreeing to the deal.

    "We have spoken with the Fire Department and they are in agreement with this recommendation,'' Murphy said.

    Killed in the fire were: Paul A. Brotherton, 41; Joseph T. McGuirk, 38; James F. Lyons III, 34; Lt. Thomas E. Spencer, 42; Timothy P. Jackson, 51, and Jeremiah M. Lucey, 38.

    After the fire King, then known as Julie Ann Barnes, was adopted by an Ellsworth, Maine, family who had also adopted her sister. King, 22, works as a housekeeper and gave birth to a son just months after the fire, while she was in jail.

    Levesque, 39, lives in Worcester.

    "I'm extremely appreciative. It's really incredible,'' King's adoptive mother, Debb King, said after the hearing. "We just want to go home and continue getting on with Julie's life.''

    http://www.telegram.com/news/page_one/fireap.html

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