LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - In first day of testimony in the jury trial for the 34-year-old man accused of setting six fires in the North Lufkin area in November 2012, one of the first witnesses to take the stand appeared to tell a different story from what he initially told a fire marshal.
Stanford Jones, of Lufkin, is standing trial in Judge Bob Inselmann's 217th Judicial District Court for six felony charges of arson. He was indicted on the charges back in December 2013. The offense dates are Nov. 13 and Nov. 15 of 2012.
Jones is currently in prison, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice records. He was arrested on Nov. 15, 2012 on a revocation of probation warrant and is serving time for that warrant.
During Monday's testimony, prosecutor John Peralta called James Tabaski Davis to the stand.
After Davis admitted to being convicted of a felony, he said that he wasn't with Jones on the morning that the fires were set.
"When I got up, it was around four in the morning," Davis said. "I seen somebody coming off Keltys behind the house. When I came home the house was gone."
Davis told the jury that the person was riding a bicycle and wearing a hood. However, Peralta denied pointing Jones out as a suspect during the investigation of the suspicious fires.
At that point, Peralta reminded Davis that he told the fire marshal that he and Jones were classmates and that he should check out Jones Facebook page.
"It was so long ago that I can't really remember," Davis said.
The state also called one of the Lufkin Police officers that responded to the scene of one of the fires to the stand. Peralta displayed several pictures of the arson scene at 1401 Keltys and asked Officer Christopher Nash to describe each scene.
Defense attorney John Tunnel asked Nash if he had seen Jones in the vicinity of the arson scene, and he said he had not.
Nash testified that he arrived on the scene before Lufkin firefighters did. He said he found what appeared to be where the fire had started at the vacant home, along with a red lighter fluid can.
In response to questions from Tunnel, Nash said two other LPD officers showed up at the scene as well.
Later Monday morning, the state called Lufkin City Marshall Steve McCool to the stand. He testified that at the scene of one of the fires, he found a burning stick propped up against Gilmore Samuel's home. McCool said that Samuel wasn't able to testify at that trial because he has died.
Peralta displayed pieces of evidence like the can of lighter fluid and a cloth stuffed in a gas can.
In response to questions from Tunnel, McCool said he was not responsible for handling the evidence or taking notes on it. He said that the Lufkin Police Department handled that duty.
McCool also said that he saw bicycle tracks at the scene that might have matched a bicycle found at Jones' home.
Peralta then asked McCool if he remembered questioning Davis. At that point, inconsistencies between Davis' and McCool's statements prompted Tunnel to request that Davis testimony be excluded.
McCool said Jones and the resident of one of the houses in the vicinity of one of the set fire had fathered children with the same woman as Jones. He said this is one of the reasons that he believes the fires were intentional.
When Tunnel reminded the jurors that Davis has four felonies on his record, McCool replied that most of the people he dealt with over the course of he investigation into the suspicious fires had prior criminal records.
Ozzy Jarman, a captain with the Lufkin Fire Department with 14 years of experience, said he found a lighter at one of the fire scenes and completed the proper steps to obtain a DNA sample.
Following the lunch break, the state called McCool back to the stand. He said although he was not able to come up with a definitive cause of the largest fire out of the six, "it was clearly suspicious."
Under cross examination Tunnel, McCool said that the cause of the fire was unconfirmed and admitted that it could very well have been an accident. McCool also said no physical evidence was taken from the scene of the most severe fire.
During her testimony, Michelle Dupree said that she has been Jones' "real good friend" since 2007. She told the jurors that she dropped him off at home on the morning of the last fire around 7 a.m. Then Peralta asked her if Dupree recalled that she had previously told McCool that it was earlier when she dropped him off, she said she couldn't remember.
Afterwards, Peralta called McCool back to the stand. The city fire marshal said that Dupree told him that she actually had her phone alarm set and that she had dropped him off between 6 and 6:15 a.m.