Jury convicts men for fire that led to firefighter's death

FILE - In this Dec. 31, 2015, file photo, Hamilton, Ohio, firefighters move the casket for Patrick Wolterman into an awaiting fire engine at the Hodapp Funeral Home in Cincinnati. A homeowner and his nephew are scheduled to go on trial in Ohio for murder in a 2015 house fire that resulted in the death of Hamilton firefighter Wolterman. Butler County Judge Greg Stephens said the court should try to seat a jury first. He set jury selection for Monday, Nov. 6. (Cameron Knight/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP, File)

CINCINNATI - An Ohio homeowner and his nephew were convicted Wednesday of murder and arson for a 2015 blaze that led to a firefighter's death.

Butler County jurors found Lester Parker and William "Billy" Tucker guilty after getting the case late Tuesday in Hamilton, about 30 miles (48 kilometres) north of Cincinnati. A judge sentenced both men to life in prison, with a minimum of 15 years before either one is eligible for parole.

Parker and Tucker were charged in the Dec. 28, 2015, fire that started in the basement of the home owned by Parker and resulted in the death of Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman, who died after falling through a floor in the burning home.

Prosecutors said that Parker, 67, was having financial problems and solicited Tucker to set the fire to collect insurance money. Parker and Tucker, 50, of Richmond, Kentucky, both pleaded not guilty to murder and aggravated arson charges. They testified in their own defence, denying any involvement in the fire.

Parker's attorney, David Washington, said in a telephone interview after court that it was a "sad" day, and they plan to appeal the conviction.

Tucker's attorney, Tamara Sack, told the Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News that they respect the verdict. "It wasn't an easy case by any means," she said.

A message seeking additional comment on whether Tucker plans to appeal was left at Sack's office Wednesday.

Parker talked to Tucker on Dec. 20 and asked him to set the fire at his house in exchange for pain pills while Parker was in Las Vegas, according to prosecutors. Tucker said he was in Hamilton at the time of the fire, but came to get pills from one of Parker's daughters so he could sell them.

Facebook messages that Tucker sent to people contained GPS locations that put him at the scene of the fire, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also told the jury that Parker removed items from the house and took family pictures with him to Las Vegas to avoid losing them in the fire. Parker testified that he moved items from his house to his garage in preparation for a family gathering.

Wolterman's death marked the first time a Hamilton firefighter has died in the line of duty since 1971.


Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

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