None learned the art of archery
from me who did not make me, in the end, the target.
Sandra Maloney was found in her Green Bay, Wisconsin home, which had been involved in a fire. Sandra's mother, Lola Cator, discovered Sandra's deceased and burned body on the morning of February 11, 1998. Sandra was found laying face down on a couch in the upstairs living room. The phone was off the hook, and the outer storm door was tied from the inside to the front door with a shoelace (Cator cut through the shoelace with scissors to gain entry). Both circumstances had occurred in the past when the Sandy had wanted privacy. The origin of the fire was determined to be the vicinity of her lap and involving the couch. There was extensive soot damage in the home with some minimal structural damage. All of the windows in the home were closed, except for a storm window that was open only a few inches. The fire was determined to be self-extinguishing. Original arson reports from local agencies determined the fire to be accidental in nature with no suspicious elements or circumstances. However, autopsy findings suggested that the manner of death was homicide. A subsequent fire cause and origin report from state investigators reflected arson.
Sandra's estranged husband, John Maloney, a Detective in the Green Bay Police Department, was developed as a suspect given their impending divorce, ongoing child custody battle and history of domestic disputes. Subsequently, John Maloney's girlfriend, Tracy Hellenbrand, a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division in Green Bay, was employed by investigators to elicit a confession from him. Despite the failure of Hellenbrand to elicit a confession and despite the lack of any evidence of his presence at the scene, John Maloney was tried and convicted on charges of first-degree homicide, arson and mutilating a corpse in February of 1999.
Sandra became involved in numerous confrontations with neighbors, including a fist fight with another woman at a youth athletic event. As her husband and mother pressured her to stop her drug use, Sandra began drinking. This was not, however, a substitute for prescription drugs, but in addition to them. Her best friend shared the same addictions, and helped Sandra obtain the drugs and alcohol on which she had become dependent. Sandra received in-patient psychiatric and alcohol/drug abuse treatment in 1996 and again in 1997 following an auto accident caused by her drunk driving. She refused, however, to participate in out-patient treatment. When John left in May of 1997 and filed for divorce, Sandra took up smoking cigarettes, and sank further into addiction and depression. At the end of that year, the children were living with John and his new girlfriend, Tracy Hellenbrand, and Sandra could only have supervised visitation with them. She was in another traffic accident, but didn't bother to show up in court and a warrant was issued. Her weight fell to 97 lbs. By the second week of February 1998, Sandra's mother said she expected Sandra to drink herself to death before the week was out.
Five suicide notes were found in the kitchen wastebasket.
In the basement of the home, an
electrical extension cord was found tied to a conduit pipe. Two
VCRs were stacked on the coffee table beneath the cord. The
shorter end looked suspiciously like a noose that failed to hold.
Blood was found
on the coffee table, on the carpet, in the laundry room and in the
basement bathroom and shower. Her shirt, with blood on the
collar, was found in the clothes hamper in the laundry room. A
bloody fingerprint belonging to Sandra's best friend was found on the
Several ashtrays were located throughout the building, many filled with cigarette butts. It was noted that several cigarettes had been left burning on tables, counter tops and on a telephone book and had burned down or self-extinguished. Two burned paper matches were identified on the floor of the living room next to the coffee table that was located to the East of the sofa…
Evidence in the dwelling, including several ashtrays containing cigarette butts, burned and discarded matches on the carpet in the living room and self-extinguished cigarettes on furniture throughout the home, indicate a careless pattern of cigarette smoking by the occupant.
… Heat patterns on the West wall behind the sofa were most intense directly behind the North end of the South sofa section. The ceiling directly above this area exhibited the most intense direct heat exposure, with a section of drywall material having burned through and fallen.
Physical evidence, including the condition of the victim, indicates a fire that was initiated in the cushions of the South section of the two piece sectional sofa. The fire apparently smoldered in the cushions of the sofa, creating dense and toxic smoke and intense localized heat.
The fire continued to burn in the smoldering state until oxygen in the structure was depleted below combustion sustenance levels.
Evidence in the dwelling, including several ashtrays containing cigarette butts, burned and discarded matches on the carpet in the living room and self-extinguished cigarettes on furniture throughout the home, indicate a careless pattern of cigarette smoking by the occupant. The location of the fire's origin supports careless use of smoking materials as the probable ignition source of the fire.
The declaration of homicide, however, meant that the fire could not have been accidental. Special Agent Gregory J. Eggum of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation, reviewed autopsy findings first, then looked at the same evidence. He reported:
Accelerants were located on the couch, stuffed into the couch, and in front of the couch. These accelerants were matchbooks, paper, and cloth.
The area of origin also included the body which was on the couch at the time of the fire. S/A Eggum could not eliminate the possibility that the body was also set on fire.
Also on the floor between the davenport and the coffee table around the heavily charred floor there was an irregular burn pattern which appeared to be an accelerant pattern, either solid or liquid. It was also noted that when water was poured on the floor near this charred hole, it ran away from the hole towards the davenport.
The cause of this fire was determined to be deliberately set.
In fact, no evidence of liquid accelerants was found at the scene. The items described by S/A Eggum as "accelerants" are "fuel," i.e., they can be burned. S/A Eggum suggested that twisted tissue might have been used as a trailer, but the tissue wasn't burned, and therefore could not have been a trailer. The fire was contained and quickly extinguished because the windows were closed. There was insufficient oxygen available to keep the fire burning.
A Conviction without Evidence
Milwaukee Co. Dep. ME John Teggatz
|Fire Investigation Report
DCI S/A Gregory Eggum
of the Death of Sandra Maloney
James D. Dibdin MD, LL.B, MPA, FCAP, FRCPA
Dr. James G. Munger, Ph.D., MIFireE, CFPS
|Click HERE to read criminal profiler Brent Turvey's complete threshold assessment of this case.|