LACONIA — Deputy Fire Chief Charles Roffo testified yesterday in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division that there were two ignition points in a fire that heavily damaged a home at 44 Taylor St. on September 5.
Roffo was testifying at the probable cause hearing of John Woodbury, the husband of the owner of the home who has been charged with two counts of arson and is being held on $50,000 cash-only bail in the Belknap County Jail.
After about 45 minutes of testimony from Det. Jeffrey Wholley and Roffo, Judge Jim Carroll found probable cause to support the allegations and ordered his bail to be continued.
Roffo said he spent a total of seven hours with the N.H. State Fire Marshal at the Taylor Street house and between the two of them, they were able to eliminate all electrical causes, mechanical causes, and all natural event causes — like lightening.
He said that the two ignition points on on the back porch in the left rear of the the house plus one in a bedroom on the right side of the house were telling, in that in the kitchen and bathroom between the two ignition points there was much less damage.
Roffo said it was like the fire was burning toward those two rooms from two different directions.
He also noted there was no fire in the basement and the fire patterns in both the porch and the bedroom extended to the floor.
On cross examination, he admitted that a search for accelerants conducted by a fire marshal and a search dog was inconclusive.
Wholley testified that he learned through a multiple interviews with witnesses and friends that Woodbury and his wife Tina had argued that day around 4:30 p.m.
He testified that Woodbury had told his next door neighbor that they were going to have a fire that night. The neighbor told police this was unusual because the Woodburys have a fire pit in their back yard and often have fires, but have never told her about it before.
The next door neighbor told police that she saw Tina Woodbury when she returned to the house after learning about the fire. She said Tina walked up to Woodbury and said, "What the "(explicative)? You burned my house down."
Wholley said a second neighbor said he was taking a walk near his house on the street next door (Fairview St.) and saw Woodbury sitting in some grass about 150 feet away from the 44 Taylor Street home holding his dog by its collar.
The second neighbor said Woodbury approached him and, when asked, told him his wife was visiting friends. He told the man he was walking the dog.
Wholley testified that the man told police it was unusual because "in 20 years, he'd never seen John Woodbury walk his dog."
The neighbor said Woodbury walked back to where he was sitting and then he noticed flames about 10 to 15 feet high coming from the Woodbury home. He told police that when he called to Woodbury, his neighbor "nonchalantly strolled" back toward him.
Wholley said a third woman, the one who reported the fire, told police she didn't know Woodbury but when she asked him if it was his house, he didn't say anything.
She told police he didn't have any emotion and didn't offer to help when her and other people who were helping firefighters drag a four-inch hose down Taylor Street from Highland Street.
Wholley also read aloud the voice messages left by Woodbury on his wife's cell phone.
He said one came at 5:45 p.m. from a number that was John Woodbury's house number that said, "I am lighting the match right now..." Wholley said the call lasted 12 seconds.
A second call came to Tina's voice mail at 5:48 p.m. that said, "Tina, you should see the flames are starting to collect. Right. Right. Don't worry about fire wood."
Woodbury's attorney said the evidence present was largely circumstantial and didn't match the complaints that specifically allege Woodbury lit the house on fire to recklessly endanger the firefighters who fought it and the neighbor's house next door.
The case will be bound over to Superior Court for possible indictment.
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