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Published: Wednesday, 8/15/2007

Testimony in deadly fire case indictes Powell had gas on clothes

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When Wayne Powell arrived at his younger brother's apartment on the night a fire ravaged his ex-girlfriend's home last fall, he wore clothes that eventually would test positive for gasoline, according to testimony in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday.

During the second day of Mr. Powell's capital-murder trial, his younger brother, Isaac, said he was asleep when his brother woke him up early on the morning of Nov. 11. He said his brother seemed "hyperactive" and said many times that he had messed up.

Mr. Powell, 42, is accused of pouring gasoline onto a stairwell landing in the house at 814 St. John Ave. and lighting a fire that killed four people, including two children. Charged with 11 felony counts, including aggravated arson and murder, Mr. Powell faces the death penalty if convicted.

Killed in the fire were Mary Rose McCullom, 33, and her disabled mother, Rose Mary McCullom, 52, along with the younger Ms. McCullom's adopted son, Jamal, and her cousin, Sanaa' Thompson, 2.

"I had seen the fire on TV," the younger Mr. Powell testified, adding that his brother said many times that he had messed up. "I didn't know what he was referring to. It could have been many things. I told him I didn't really want to hear it."

Overall, 22 witnesses, including the one adult and two of the children who survived the fire, testified over the trial's first two days. They told the jury of nine women and five men, including two alternates, of the intense fire that erupted and of the four victims trapped in its path.

Defense attorney John Thebes questioned Isaac Powell about his brother's line of work. In particular, the younger Mr. Powell said that his brother often worked with gasoline-powered lawn equipment, and used gas to wash roofing tar from his hands.

Mr. Thebes also pointed out while questioning other witnesses that although gasoline was found on Mr. Powell's clothing, none was found on his boots.

Prosecutors are scheduled to call additional witnesses today. Defense attorneys anticipate calling witnesses at the end of the week.

Among those on the defense's list of witnesses is Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who was subpoenaed July 16.

According to the subpoena filed by Mr. Thebes, the mayor is expected to appear with "all records and documents, including telephone conversations, e-mail or other electronic messaging, regarding the investigation." He was further asked to bring "all documentation regarding the demolition" of the house.

Yesterday, city attorneys filed a motion asking Judge Gary Cook to quash the mayor's subpoena, saying that Mr. Finkbeiner has "no knowledge" of the case. Included in the motion was an affidavit signed by the mayor that said he had "no knowledge of any sort regarding the investigation of the arson fire at 814 St. John Street with the exception of what I have read in the paper and heard in various electronic media sources."

The mayor, who held a press conference at the scene of the St. John fire on Nov. 11, further stated that he gave "no direct orders concerning the investigation or demolition."

Judge Cook had not ruled yesterday whether to excuse the mayor from appearing.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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