Saturday, May 29, 2004

Police reconsidering fatal OSU fire


Columbus cold-case detective questions arson ruling

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A homicide detective is asking whether a dropped cigarette, rather than an arsonist, may have caused the fire that killed five college students near the Ohio State University campus, according to an internal memo obtained by the Columbus Dispatch.

The April 13, 2003, fire has been assigned to the Columbus police cold-case squad, and authorities said investigators are starting from the beginning.

Three Ohio University and two Ohio State students died in the three-story brick house after a 21st birthday party for one of the victims, who lived there. Among the victims were Kyle Raulin of West Chester and Andrea Dennis of Madeira.

City Fire Capt. Steve Saltsman is standing by the ruling of arson by three fire investigators, the newspaper reported Friday. Federal and private fire experts agreed with the assessment, he said. He wouldn't comment on evidence and told the newspaper he hadn't seen the police memo.

Detective Richard Bisutti wrote the five-page memo last month for his superiors after reading the investigative file.

"Is the arson investigator satisfied that due to all of the alcohol consumption and intoxicated people that were at this party, that one of the partygoers did not leave a cigarette burning on the couch?" he said.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien last August dropped the only charges filed in the case, saying there was not enough evidence. Robert Lucky Patterson had been charged with five counts of aggravated murder. A message seeking comment was left Friday with O'Brien's office.

Bisutti's memo recounts Patterson's questioning by homicide Detective Mike McCann. Patterson told McCann he was in the neighborhood that night and had matches with him.

"Patterson broke down and admitted that on the night of the homicides he had consumed a lot of drugs and alcohol," Bisutti wrote. "He claimed that he has recurring blackouts."

Patterson, who is staying at his father's home in Columbus, told the Dispatch he was innocent.

"It was a long while ago," Patterson said. "But I'd remember doing something like that."




ENQUIRER COLUMNS
Baptists' trip to Hispaniola is more urgent
Repairman has blessings to share

TOP LOCAL HEADLINES
'Cops' producers get the last laugh
Local men are linked to inquiry
Iraqi doctor to lead interim government
Maupins lead parade
A day for families to recall sacrifice
Old Navy uniform a fitting tribute
Greater Cincinnati honors memories of veterans
State remembers Iraq war dead
Deaths of two friends hang over graduation
Store owner kills armed man
Court backs online sex traps
Development districts survive
Safety director: Airport humming
Dinner celebrates 60 years of activism
Sexual predator given 135-year jail sentence
Judge faults language used in gay-union ban
Police reconsidering fatal OSU fire
Dead Warren Co. bird shows West Nile virus
Local news briefs
Public safety briefs

KENTUCKY HEADLINES
Lake boaters, get there early
$40,000 available to owners
Mall walk days ended
Plea deal OK'd in Jan. slaying
Cahill to lead Latino parish
Three killed in Kentucky storms
Kentucky news briefs

EDUCATION HEADLINES
45 state computers used to view porn
Princeton finalist withdraws as superintendent candidate
Students, teachers say emotional farewell to Windsor
National Merit scholars selected

NEIGHBORS HEADLINES
Middletown coach put on leave over raffles
Neighbors news briefs

LIVES REMEMBERED
Olga Arruza was pianist and educator