Camiolo Case Reports and Depositions

Death Penalty Notice
Click caption to read Notice in its entirety

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. Their son Paul was subsequently charged with capital murder and arson. Paul spent 10 months in jail before the District Attorney reviewed the evidence 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 meant the gasoline was on the floor before the carpeting was installed. It had been used to thin varnish applied to the floors many years before the 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 and insurance experts. Equally instructive are the explanations -- and in several instances, labored and unscientific rationalizations -- given under oath by these experts in their depositions in the civil lawsuit brought by Paul Camiolo.

Why 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.  Read the reports.  Read the depositions.  Then ask yourself, who "knowingly 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 ATF S/A Steven Avato, and Defense expert Ronald Decker all knew that the only samples that tested positive for gasoline was the hardwood floor not the carpet or the padding or the fire debris.  DA hired independent expert George Wert made mention only of a positive control sample being rare.

S/A Avato and Defense Expert Ronald Decker kept looking at the entire scene and realized that the gasoline findings in the hardwood floor control samples did not in themselves mean arson. Agent Avato did not even supplement his report because the positive result did not change his mind on how the scene looked. As Agent Avato stated in his deposition, changing an accidental report to incendiary because of a positive 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 occurred in the presentment issued by the grand jury as per the testimony of George Wert and Trooper Kline) would have occurred even more quickly.

Ronald Decker looked into the reason the hardwood floor was positive for gasoline and opined correctly that the gasoline had to be trapped in the floor finish.Decker knew that the corresponding damage on the ceiling, which would have occurred in a gasoline-accelerated fire, was not present.Decker recognized the scientific impossibility of pouring gasoline, igniting it, and getting no burning behind the lift / recliner chair and have the control sample from the floor behind there test positive for gasoline. The burn patterns which existed high burn on the furniture, fairly even burn on the carpet were indicative of flashover the alternate explanation for the alleged pour pattern marks. In an accelerated fire the burn patterns would have been different.

Thomas Sullivan on the other hand used the accelerant found in the hardwood floor to 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 finishing but apparently discarded that line of inquiry when the police contacted builder about floor finishing techniques and was told that gasoline was not used.Of course no effort was made to determine if 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 carpet and 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 positive for gasoline.Sullivan realized that if the fire was gasoline accelerated, the burn injuries suffered by Edward and 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 surviving sometime conscious witness Rosalie Camiolo (before she succumbed to her injuries), visits to the hospitals which treated her were made several weeks after she died.

With the 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 gasoline could come to be found in the floor and not in the fire debris, carpet and pad above. This was obviously a results oriented investigation as Prosecuting DA Mark Miller now an Assistant US Attorney from Philadelphia only gave Mr. Wert SELECTED EVIDENCE, TOLD HIM ABOUT EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE BUT SAID YOU HAVE WHAT YOU NEED TO DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO.

George 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 recognized as occurring in fire suppression efforts (as per NFPA). He also states that fires that are accelerated burn faster than a cigarette fire whereas according to NFPA there is essentially no difference 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 prosecuting DA Timothy Woodward) to obtain a fabric sample of similar fabric to the fabric on the Camiolo furniture.It was learned the fabrics had a very different flammability factor.

Along with hiring Wert, the first DA Mark Miller and the county and township investigators "lost" exculpatory evidence and tried to pressure S/A Avato into recalling his report or changing it to arson. Chief Stauch talks of this in his deposition and says Mark Miller said the investigators were only trying to keep S/A Avato up to date with the sampling.This ignores the fact that after their visit, Agent Avato was told he could not release anything but the 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 were not interested.Sullivan’s first accidental report surfaced only a week before the criminal trial was scheduled to commence then only when challenged to do so by the defense attorney despite it’s clear exculpatory nature and the Brady v. Maryland US Supreme Court Ruling regarding exculpatory evidence having to be disclosed to the defense.

The reports and depositions are in MS Word or .pdf format. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view pdf files. If you do not have Acrobat, click HERE to download it free of charge. To download each report or deposition transcript, RIGHT CLICK your mouse over the link to the report and choose "SAVE LINK AS ..."
Commonwealth and State Farm Insurance Reports
Defense Reports
Fire Marshal Thomas Sullivan-1st Report (pdf)
John DeHaan, Ph.D. Report (pdf)
Fire Marshal Thomas Sullivan-2nd Report (pdf)
John Lentini, C.F.I. Report (pdf)
State Trooper Kline Report (pdf)
Ronald F. Decker Report (pdf)
George L. Wert (pdf)
By Combustion Science & Engineering, Inc.:
Walter R. Kerr (pdf)
Richard J. Roby, P.E., Ph.D. (MS Word)
State Trooper Whitmoyer Report (pdf)
FDS Model Analysis (MS Word)
Jason Sutula, Douglas Carpenter, Richard Roby

Fire Marshal Thomas Sullivan - Part 1 (MS Word)
Rick Tidwell (MS Word)
Fire Marshal Thomas Sullivan - Part 2 (MS Word) Ronald Decker (MS Word)
George L. Wert - Part 1 (pdf)
Steven J. Avato (MS Word)
George L. Wert - Part 2 (pdf)

Edward Stauch (MS Word)

Robert Kerrigan (MS Word)

Additional case materials are available on request and their use for training purposes is strongly encouraged.  Click HERE to send request.

Camiolo suit dismissal upheld by Federal Court; rules that allegation alone is evidence of guilt
Click HERE for 3rd Circuit Opinion (pdf format)

Truth in Justice