At approximately 10:45 a.m. on Aug. 18, 2000, a fire broke out in a trailer at Pine Valley Mobile Home park. The trailer was rented by Bill who lived there with his girlfriend and the three children, Ashley aged 6, William aged 5 and Samantha aged three. A friend of Bill's was also living there and sleeping on a couch. All three adults escaped, all three children died.
Neighbors reported that during the fire Bill seemed unemotional, cold and dry. In reality he was in shock, traumatized and incapable of reacting. Not thinking logically and in a frenzy he began banging on the trailer walls and yelling to his children. His car was parked close to the trailer and fearing that it might explode and add to the danger he moved it away. He threw a piece of timber though one of the windows. All this was irrational, but Bill was not in a rational frame of mind.
You may very well think that given the same circumstances you would have reacted differently, but in the grip of shock the mind can freeze.
Neighbors reported that there were arguments prior to the fire between Bill and his girlfriend, and this is not an issue. Bill was having serious financial hardship and with the girlfriend not helping to economize it led to disagreements. The alleged threats to kill the children have to take into account the circumstances in which they were made, the tone of voice etc. Saying that he would see them dead before he would let the Department of Family and Children Service take them, can be construed not so much as a threat to kill them but an indication of how much he cared for them.
The expressed intention to burn the trailer rather than face eviction, even if taken seriously, does not imply an intention to burn the children. In truth the statement was a throw away remark intended to mean nothing more than that he would resist attempts to evict him.
Friday, April 08, 2005
Part 2: the story of William David Riley
As told by Brian Bowler of New Zealand: