Prosecution Direct of Eaton Bahr (Expert)

1. Mr. Bahr, would you please state your full name for the court?
My name is Eaton Bahr.
2. Where do you live Mr. Bahr?
I live in Thunderbird, IL.
3. How long have you lived in Thunderbird?
My entire life.
4. Are you employed?
Oh yes, I’m the township’s Fire Marshall.
5. How long have you been the Fire Marshall?
For more than 5 years. And for the 8 years prior to that, I served as a firefighter in the same force.
6. What does a Fire Marshal do?
A Fire Marshal investigates the cause, origin and circumstances of fires. I also am in charge of inspecting all public buildings to ensure that they are safe and up to code. I also am very involved in efforts to education the people of Thunderbird about fire safety.
7. Did becoming a Fire Marshall require any special training?
In Thunderbird Township you need to have a B.S. degree in forensic science and at least five years of experience as a firefighter to apply for the Marshall position. You also need some administrative experience
8. Did you receive any special training after becoming the Marshal?
Yes I did. The township sent me for training to the State’s Attorney’s forensic training center.

YOUR HONOR, I MOVE TO HAVE EATON BAHR QUALIFIED AS AN EXPERT IN FIRE CAUSATION AND PREVENTION.

9. Do you know Mr. Lane O’Brien?
Yes, I do – since he was a kid.
10. Do you know Mr. Ashton Bellows?
Again, yes I do – since he was very young.
11. Do you know Mr. Whitney Grey?
Yes I do. I’ve known all three of them since they were boys.
12. Where do the three men work?
Ashton Bellows and Lane O’Brien were, until the fire on July 4, 2010, the owners of the Bellows & O’Brien’s pub, here in town. Whitney Grey was their employee – kind of a jack of all trades for them.
13. Had you ever inspected the pub?
Oh yes, I inspected it last year.
14. Will you please describe the pub for us please?
Well, it was what can be called a “vintage” building – old wood everywhere. The structure was 1 ½ stories – wood floors, wooden tables and chairs. There was a basement where Ashton and Lane had their offices and storage area. There was a balcony of sorts above the bar area. Windows in the basement, first floor and balcony area.
15. I want to direct your attention to the evening of July 4, 2010. Do you remember that evening?
Yes. It was the Fourth of July and I was at the station all night. The pub’s alarm system called the fire department around 4:30 am. I went with the firefighters to the scene. It was apparent by the time that we got there that the building would be a total loss. It was one of the worst blazes this town has ever had. It took us over four hours to put it out completely.
16. Why is that?
Well, this fire was a perfect storm – fuel, oxygen and heat. The fuel of course was all the old wood, all the alcohol on the premises, the old furniture that Lane had in the basement, and the stripping compounds he had down there too.
17. What about the oxygen?
Windows had been left open in the basement and in the balcony area. The flames had a perfect draft to increase the heat.
18. Were you able to determine the original source of heat?
Yes we were. Two items acted as the source of heat in this fire: both a coffee maker and a heat gun had been left on in the basement.
19. Did you find anything else?
Yes we did. My firefighters were concerned right off the bat that the smoke was much blacker than it should have been given the fuel source. I later learned the cause of the unusual smoke.
20. What was the cause?
I found traces of gasoline in the basement.
21. How did you learn about the gasoline in the basement?
I took samples of debris from the basement to the lab. One of the accelerants we detected was gasoline.
22. What were the other things you found?
Exactly what we expected – materials being used by Lane to strip his antique furniture.
23. Were there sprinklers in the basement?
Not enough. I had inspected the building about six months ago, and recommended that Lane and Ashton put four additional heads in. They had not done this by the time of the fire. Under the code, they had a year to do so.
24. May I approach the witness, Your Honor?
Mr. Bahr, I’m handing you what has been marked as Prosecution Exhibit #1. Do you recognize this document?
Yes, I do. It’s my report from the fire at the pub last summer.
25. Did you prepare the report?
Yes I did. It summarizes the results of my investigation of the fire and the fire department’s response at the pub.
26. Did you prepare this report as part of your duties as Fire Marshall of Thunderbird?
Yes, I did.
27. Did you prepare this report in the same way as you normally prepare such reports?
Yes. I did.
28. YOUR HONOR, I MOVE TO HAVE THE REPORT OF THE FIRE MARSHAL ENTERED INTO EVIDENCE AS PROSECUTION EXHIBIT #1.
29. Mr. Bahr, did you make any conclusions as a result of your investigation of the pub fire?
Yes, I concluded that the fire was deliberately set, that is, it was arson.
30. What was the basis for your conclusion?
Three things: First, the fact that the windows were open when they should have been locked for the night; Next, the presence of gasoline in the basement. Everything else down there was explainable, but not gasoline. Finally, and most importantly, the presence of the coffee maker and the heat gun left on in the basement.
31. Now Mr. Bahr, I want to ask you a few questions about the defendant in this case, Whitney Grey. You testified earlier that you have known him a long time. In what context have you known him?
Whitney is very familiar to me. For years he’s been showing up at almost every fire in town.
32. Do you know why?
I understand he wanted to be a firefighter, but that health issues had prevented this. So now he wants to become a fire investigator. He’s been taking classes in fire investigation at the local college.
33. Was he at the pub’s fire?
Oh yes – Grey, Bellows and O’Brien were all there.
34. Were there any witnesses to this fire?
No, no witnesses.
35. Was there media coverage of the fire?
Yes, the media was there for the entire time. In fact, after I began to suspect arson, I reviewed the media tapes.
36. Did you learn anything?
Yes I did. There was a clip of Whitney Grey and Ashton Bellows together that I thought was unusual.
37. Unusual in what way?
The two of them were standing next to one another with smiles on their faces.
38. What made you conclude this was unusual?
Well, the pub was burning down and both were losing their livelihoods.
39. Mr. Bahr, as part of your investigation of this fire, were you obligated to establish whether the building was covered under any insurance policy?
Yes – that’s an essential part of any investigation. Insurance is often the primary motive for arson.
40. Did you determine whether the pub was covered by insurance?
Yes. In fact, the insurance on the building had just been raised substantially.