Judge declares mistrial in Nacogdoches Co. arson case

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A mistrial was declared Tuesday evening after a Nacogdoches County could not reach a verdict in the trial of Steven Lynn Skidmore, who is accused of setting his ex-girlfriend's home ablaze.

Both sides rested around noon and began closing arguments at 2 p.m. The jury took the case into deliberations around 3:30 p.m.

After more than four hours, a jury could not determine Skidmore's innocence or guilt, forcing Judge Ed Klein to declare a mistrial just before 8 p.m.

Klein's office said the Skidmore case will be placed back on the docket and another jury will be selected at a later date.

Earlier Tuesday, Skidmore took the stand in his own defense, telling jurors he "absolutely" did not start the fire which burned his then-girlfriend's house.

The 47-year-old is accused of burning the house of Tammy Gilbert on Dec. 17, 2010, because he did not want her attending a Christmas party.

Skidmore explained that the fireplace was burning at the house and the porch was covered with boxes of items, including propane and lanterns.

The live-in boyfriend said the evening Gilbert told him to get out of the house he began packing up a garbage sack of dirty clothes and leftovers. Skidmore claims Gilbert saw him leave with the bag.

David Rieves, a canine handler for the Texas Fire Marshal's Office testified about what the dog was trained to find.

"I do not know the origin or cause of the fire," Rieves said. "Not the kind of investigation I did."

Rieves explained that the dog alerted to one spot outside of the house in the porch area.

Rieves said the dog is trained to alert at 14 different odors, but could not say what the specific odor was.

Rieves testified that the area of the house could have been contaminated.

Skidmore will remain out of jail on bond until he stands trial again.

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