On September 30, 1996 there was a
fire at the Upper Moreland,
Pennsylvania home of Edward Camiolo, his wife Rosalie and their son
Paul. Both Mr.
and Mrs. Camiolo succumbed to injuries suffered in the fire.
son Paul was subsequently charged with capital murder and arson.
spent 10 months in jail before the District Attorney reviewed the
presented by defense experts and dropped all charges.
Experts hired by the homeowner's insurance carrier, State Farm
Insurance, and investigators for the Commonwealth found evidence of
gasoline in scorched sections of the home. But the gasoline was found
only in the wooden floors -- both burned and unburned sections of the
home -- and not in carpeting or
carpet padding. Moreover, it contained a high lead content, which
the gasoline was on the floor before the carpeting was installed.
had been used to thin varnish applied to the floors many years before
fire, when lead was still used in gasoline. Insurance and
prosecution experts failed to even look for lead.
How experts hired by the prosecution (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
and State Farm Insurance) and by the defense differ in interpreting the
same evidence is instructive of both methods and motivations.
Many of the arson myths
identified by Tim Zeak
are cited as "scientific" basis for conclusions reached by Commonwealth
insurance experts. Equally instructive are the explanations --
in several instances, labored and unscientific rationalizations --
given under oath by these experts in their depositions in the civil
lawsuit brought by Paul Camiolo.
is this important?
Because the State intended to kill
Paul Camiolo, and shopped experts who would help them do so even when
they knew or should have known the fire was accidental in origin.
the reports. Read the depositions. Then ask yourself, who
created a grave risk of death to another person"?
Investigators for the prosecution, Thomas
Sullivan UM Fire
Marshall, and Ret. UM Police Chief Edward Stauch, independent expert
Steven Avato, and Defense expert Ronald Decker all knew that the only
that tested positive for gasoline was the hardwood floor not the carpet
padding or the fire debris. DA hired
independent expert George Wert made mention only of a positive
Avato and Defense Expert Ronald Decker kept looking at the entire scene
realized that the gasoline findings in the hardwood floor control
not in themselves mean arson. Agent
Avato did not even supplement his report because the positive result
change his mind on how the scene looked. As Agent Avato stated in his
deposition, changing an accidental report to incendiary because of a
sample without doing more work to determine how and why that sample was
obtained would be an error.Avato
further went on to say that flashover (which was denied as having
the presentment issued by the grand jury as per the testimony of George
and Trooper Kline) would have occurred even more quickly.
Decker looked into the reason the hardwood floor was positive for
opined correctly that the gasoline had to be trapped in the floor
finish.Decker knew that the corresponding
the ceiling, which would have occurred in a gasoline-accelerated fire,
present.Decker recognized the
scientific impossibility of pouring gasoline, igniting it, and getting
burning behind the lift / recliner chair and have the control sample
floor behind there test positive for gasoline. The burn patterns which
existed high burn on the
even burn on the carpet were indicative of flashover the alternate
for the alleged pour pattern marks. In
an accelerated fire the burn patterns would have been different.
Sullivan on the other hand used the accelerant found in the hardwood
change his reports repeatedly.Indeed,
before this investigation was over he had accidental, undetermined, and
incendiary reports along with ever changing origin points on the fire.
The origins changed without
explanation.Sullivan knew of the
local practice by builders to use gasoline to cut varnishes in floor
but apparently discarded that line of inquiry when the police contacted
about floor finishing techniques and was told that gasoline was not
used.Of course no effort was made to
in a 25-year-old house the floors were ever replaced or refinished.
Prosecutors had improbable
/ impossible theories to explain the presence of
gasoline only in the floor.One theory
had water pressure in the fire hoses driving the gasoline out of the
pads and into the hardwood floor. Ironically, the carpet strip Kline
lifted up which
allegedly had the
gasoline odor, which precipitated the reports change did not even test
for gasoline.Sullivan realized that
if the fire was gasoline accelerated, the burn injuries suffered by
Rosalie and Paul Camiolo would have been much more severe but had no
alternative theory which explained where they were found by rescue.
Instead of trying to interview
sometime conscious witness Rosalie Camiolo (before she succumbed to her
injuries), visits to the hospitals which treated her were made several
after she died.
investigation obviously a mess, the Montgomery
County DA hired independent expert George Wert (who subsequently got an
approximately $100,000 yearly
position in the DA's office funded by the
insurance company federation). His job
according to Thomas Sullivan and Edward Stauch was to explain how the
could come to be found in the floor and not in the fire debris, carpet
above. This was obviously a results
oriented investigation as Prosecuting DA Mark Miller now an Assistant
Attorney from Philadelphia only gave Mr. Wert SELECTED EVIDENCE, TOLD
EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE BUT SAID YOU HAVE WHAT YOU NEED TO DO WHAT YOU
HAVE TO DO.
Wert used discredited science to explain why in his
opinion the Sept 30, 1996 fire at the Camiolo house was incendiary. The
family dog being found on the second
floor of the colonial is an arson indicator according to George Wert.
Crazed glass was also an indication of an
accelerated fire according to George Wert instead of only being
occurring in fire suppression efforts (as per NFPA). He also states
that fires that are accelerated burn faster
cigarette fire whereas according to NFPA there is essentially no
once the fires go to flaming combustian. In a fire presented to the
grand jury as gasoline
accelerated, Wert did
not even believe that gasoline was the accelerant used. Wert showed the
grand jury a vhs tape of a
couch burning.No effort was made by
him (it was subsequently done by the 2nd
Woodward) to obtain a fabric sample of similar fabric to the fabric on
Camiolo furniture.It was learned the
fabrics had a very different flammability factor.
with hiring Wert, the first DA Mark Miller and the county and township
investigators "lost" exculpatory evidence and tried to pressure S/A
recalling his report or changing it to arson. Chief Stauch talks of
this in his deposition and says Mark
the investigators were only trying to keep S/A Avato up to date with
sampling.This ignores the fact that
after their visit, Agent Avato was told he could not release anything
fire modeling program to anyone about this fire.And
while Agent Avato was offering the modeling program to anyone
who was interested, the Township and County Detectives and Mr. Miller
accidental report surfaced only a week before the criminal trial was
to commence then only when challenged to do so by the defense attorney
it’s clear exculpatory nature and the
Brady v. Maryland
regarding exculpatory evidence having to be disclosed to the defense.
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