Case of Man Accused of N.H. Fatal Fire That Killed 4 Goes to Jury

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Keene, n.h. — A man accused of planning and bragging about setting a 1989 fire that killed a family of four should finally be held accountable, a prosecutor urged jurors Tuesday at his murder trial, while his lawyer argued that his cruel statements don’t prove his guilt.

David McLeod is charged with four counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Carl and Lori Hina, their 4-month-old daughter, Lillian, and Carl Hina’s 12-year-old daughter, Sara. Though McLeod was an early suspect, he was not arrested for more than two decades, in part because so many of the witnesses were drunk the night of the blaze or were uncooperative with authorities during the initial investigation. New Hampshire’s cold case unit picked up McLeod in 2010 in West Sacramento, Calif., where he had moved and raised a family.

“This defendant’s day in court has been a long time in coming,” Assistant Attorney Janice Rundles said in closing arguments. “It’s time for him now to finally be held responsible for cutting short the lives of the Hina family.”

The jury in Cheshire County Superior Court began deliberating Tuesday afternoon.

Rundles said McLeod started talking about burning down the apartment house where his ex-girlfriend lived in the summer of 1988, threatened to torch it three weeks before the fire, and told three people that night he was going to do it. While the horrified residents gathered outside to watch their homes burn, McLeod was jubilant until he realized the Hinas had died, she said.

She displayed a sampling of his comments on a large screen in the courtroom, including, “Didn’t I do a good job?” and “I lit the place and the yahoos are standing out in the cold.”

“Before he realized the terrible consequences of his actions, the defendant was excited and pleased at what he did,” Rundles said.

Defense attorney Caroline Smith countered in her closing argument that the case was thoroughly investigated in 1989 and that there has been no new DNA, fingerprint evidence or new witnesses to change the initial finding.

Smith said McLeod had neither motive nor opportunity to start the fire. While prosecutors have said McLeod set the fire to get back at his former girlfriend, Wanda Ford was with McLeod at a party in another apartment that night and said McLeod was sitting on a sofa with her for 45 minutes before the fire.

“There is no evidence that David started the fire and there’s a lot of evidence that he didn’t, and couldn’t, start the fire,” she said. “He is responsible for his hateful language, and he ought to have been punished for it in 1989, and he is being punished for sure for it now, but he did not start that fire and he is not responsible for the death of the Hinas.”

She also argued that fire investigators were influenced by police’s suspicions about McLeod when they ruled that the fire was intentionally set.

“I’m not saying it was a candle; I’m not saying it was cigarettes,” she said. “I’m saying, what they used to rule these things out was the totality of the circumstances, which is what is driving this case: David’s statements.”

Rundles questioned Ford’s credibility and argued that given the drinking and drug use going on, it was unlikely anyone was keeping close tabs on McLeod. And she suggested Ford was protecting McLeod when she failed to initially tell police that he had threatened weeks before the fire to burn down the building.

“It is clear that Wanda Ford does not want to believe that the defendant set this fire,” Rundles said. “If she admits the defendant set this fire, then she is the primary reason he did so, and she is the primary person who could have stopped him.”

Members of the Hinas family left the courtroom without commenting.

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy