This Friday, we will be joined by Andrew Wade for #cclivechat and I have some burning questions for him. We have seen many cases re-investigated in the USA where forensic arson detection plays a role. I pointed you to the case of Han Tak Lee in my previous Sum it up! and now we have another one, the case from Michael Webb, Ohio. His clemency appeal has been rejected and he faces execution next month. Webb’s claim seemed more based on “another man might have done this” than disputing evidence that pointed to arson.
However, in the Newser.com I found this paragraph: “For example, decades ago, it was common for investigators to conclude an accelerant like gasoline was used if a fire burned particularly hot. In fact, the new arson science has found no such correlation, experts say. Another mistaken assumption: A V-shaped pattern on a wall of a burned building is proof of arson. All it shows is where a fire started.”
Now correct me if I am wrong but I thought that there were plenty of substances that produce V-burn patterns but they do NOT point to the point of origin of the fire. Those chemicals are ordinary household bathroom and cleaning supplies. Also, a fire can hold more than one V-burn pattern so where exactly then did the fire originate from?
Also, when discussing the burn patters that look like a pour pattern (eg a liquid poured on the floor that facilitated the fire) in many cases I miss an explanation. In the Willingham case, some of the patterns that were believed to be (accelerant) pour patterns were actually caused by him opening the front door. The sudden influx of oxygen made a trail that was mistaken for a pour pattern.
As you can see, it is going to be a very interesting Cold Case Live Chat so mark your calendar!