Friday, March 6, 2009

Harlow Cuadra's Trial... Day 9

2:14 PM: The Times Leader's reporting that the fire that endangered firefighters and severely damaged the home of Bryan Kocis in January 2007 was intentionally set, a state police deputy fire marshal testified.

Trooper Ron Jarocha said the investigation determined the fire was intentionally set behind a love seat in the living room. He came to that conclusion, Jarocha said, because the area near and under the love seat had the most fire damage.

Assistant district attorneys Michael Melnick, Shannon Crake and Allyson Kacmarski said the fire placed firefighters in danger because the fire spread throughout the first floor, and in the walls to the attic. The second floor sustained heat and smoke damage.

Jarocha said items were placed behind the love seat, and possibly sprayed with lighter fluid. He further said several smoke detectors in Kocis' home were found on the floors and tables, removed from the ceiling prior to the fire.

The front door was left open causing the flames to "spread to oxygen," Jarocha said. Flames spread out onto the front porch delaying firefighters from immediately going into the home to search for anyone.

12:21 PM: According to the Citizens' Voice... The Dallas Township Fire Department was lucky no firefighters were injured battling the blaze that destroyed Bryan Kocis’ Midland Drive home, Fire Chief Harry Vivien testified this morning in Harlow Cuadra’s capital homicide trial.

“That was a very dangerous fire,” Vivien said. “All structure fires are dangers, but we had fire go right up the walls. The roof could’ve collapsed.”

Cuadra is accused of stabbing Kocis to death on Jan. 24, 2007, and then setting fire to his Back Mountain home. Arson is among the charges Cuadra faces in the case.

Prosecution, led by Assistant District Attorney Michael Melnick, is using the arson charge as one of the reasons to pursue the death penalty against Cuadra. The fire, prosecutors allege, put firefighters’ lives at risk and should be considered by jurors as a reason to give Cuadra the death penalty if they convict him of first-degree homicide.

But, the roof didn’t collapse and no firefighters were injured, Vivien said, when being cross-examined by Cuadra’s attorney

Prosecution has called seven witnesses this morning in the ninth day of testimony. More Dallas Township firefighters are expected to testify before lunch. The prosecution still has as many as 20 witnesses left to testify.

Kocis’ friend Sam Hall testified earlier today. Hall helped broker a deal between Kocis and Sean Lockhart, a well-known gay pornography actor who had worked for Kocis. Shortly before his death, Kocis resolved a year-long legal dispute with Lockhart and his business partner Grant Roy because Hall worked as a mediator, Hall testified. Both Lockhart and Roy have already testified.

12:16 PM: The Times Leader reports that Dallas Fire Chief Harry Vivian said there was "heavy fire" at the Midland Drive home of Bryan Kocis on Jan. 24, 2007.

Vivian said eight to 12 firefighters were at the hose company for training when 911 dispatchers alerted them about the fire at about 8:35 p.m. Vivian said it took about two minutes to arrive at Kocis' home where he saw, "heavy fire in the front porch area."

Assitant Fire Chief Ralph Swartz said two to three lines were pulled from fire apparatus vehicles to extinguished the fire.

"As we arrived on scene, I was approached and given information that this gentleman who lived in the house lived alone," Swartz said. "At that point, we went from a defensive mode to an offensive mode because of the life safety issue."

As soon as firefighters knocked down the flames, a search team went inside the home and found Kocis' body on a couch.

Investigators claim Kocis was murdered inside his home allegedly by Harlow Cuadra, who is facing a capital murder trial before a Luzerne County jury.

Vivian and Swartz testified on Friday, the ninth day of Cuadra's trial presided by Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr.

Prosecutors said Cuadra and his partner, Joseph Kerekes, killed Kocis, whom they considered their main rival in the adult film production industry, and wanted to work with adult film actor Sean Lockhart, a contract model for Kocis' company, Cobra Video.

Earlier today in testimony, a representative from Verizon Wireless told the jury that signals from a cell phone registered to Cuadra were processed through a cell tower near Kocis' home on Jan. 24, 2007.

8:02 AM: Harlow Cuadra's ninth day of trial is scheduled to begin in about 30 minutes. 68 witnesses have been called to testify for the prosecution thus far, and we should hear from the remaining few today. As usual... stay tuned for further updates throughout the day.