Woman charged in fire that killed 2 Kansas City firefighters

AP News
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Posted: Oct 27, 2015 6:23 PM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A woman who owned one of the businesses destroyed in a fire that killed two Kansas City firefighters was charged Tuesday with intentionally starting the blaze.

Thu Hong Nguyen, 43, was charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of arson in the Oct. 12 fire that killed veteran firefighters Larry Leggio, 43, and John Mesh, 39. They died when a wall of the building collapsed, sending bricks and debris into the alley where they were working. The building contained several small businesses, including Nguyen's LN Salon and Spa, on the first floor and 16 apartments on the second floor.

Nguyen was arrested Monday and is being held on $2 million bond, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said. Online court records do not list an attorney who could speak on Nguyen's behalf.

An investigator with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in an affidavit that he determined the fire was intentionally set in a storage room of Nguyen's business. Video surveillance tapes from a nearby business show a woman leaving the salon minutes before the first smoke is seen coming from the structure.

Nguyen also told investigators that on the day of the fire, she bought four bottles of acetone and four bottles of isopropyl alcohol, which are flammable, at a nail supply store.

Court documents say Nguyen told investigators she previously received insurance payments from two other fires. A 2013 fire at a Lee's Summit salon where she worked was isolated to her work station. Investigators ruled that fire was accidental. In January, a fire was reported in a vacant apartment above the LN Salon and Spa, which damaged the business. Investigators determined that fire was set intentionally.

Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi on Tuesday thanked Kansas City police and the ATF for their work on the investigation but would not comment further because of the criminal investigation, fire department spokesman James Garrett said. ATF spokesman John Ham said the on-scene investigation wrapped up Tuesday but the agency would continue to analyze evidence.

Baker said at a news conference that the firefighters' families were "really struggling with the news they received today" and did not wish to comment.

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Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City contributed to this report.