Missouri Pastor Living In Vermont Charged In Arson
Date 2014/5/14 4:37:57 | Topic: News
|DEXTER, Mo. (AP) - Details came to light on Monday for the events that lead up to three arrests for arson and attempted murder.|
The case is tied to a rural Bloomfield fire that took place in January 2013.
Three individuals have been arrested and charged, including one who is a local pastor and was, at the time of the crime, an elected member of the Bloomfield School Board.
Donald Lafferty, 69, formerly of Bloomfield, now of Quechee, Vt., is charged with the Class B felony of attempted murder, the unclassified felony of armed criminal action, the Class B felony of first-degree arson, and the Class A felony of financial exploitation of the elderly ($50,000 or more.)
Christopher David Hicks, 34, of Dexter, is charged with the Class B felony of attempted murder, the unclassified felony of armed criminal action and the Class B felony of first-degree arson.
Brandy Lee Hicks, 33, of Dexter, wife of Christopher Hicks, was arrested for the Class B felony of attempted murder, the unclassified felony of armed criminal action and the Class B felony of first-degree arson.
Lafferty was awarded no bond and listed as a danger to Mildred and Goldie Lafferty--his wife and mother.
Bond has been set at $750,000 cash-only for the Hicks couple. Judge Joe Satterfield listed them both as a danger to Mildred Lafferty and the community.
Tim McCoy, investigator for the Stoddard County Prosecutor's Office, filed a probable cause affidavit in the case, detailing the events as they have taken place.
On April 10, 2014, Prosecutor Russell Oliver asked McCoy to re-open a cold case involving a house fire on Hwy. AB, partially due to the appearance of financial issues as a motivating factor, since the homeowner was a suspect in the financial exploitation of his mother.
On Jan. 12, 2013, at 8:36 p.m., the Bloomfield Fire Department was dispatched to 20993 State Hwy. AB in reference to a house fire.
According to the report, the homeowner, Mildred Lafferty, was asleep inside the residence at the time of the fire. She reported she was awakened by the heat of the fire and made a failed attempt at extinguishing the blaze.
She called 911 from her home's landline telephone.
Due to the suspicious nature of the fire, Missouri State Fire Marshal Jason Dunn was called to the scene, where he ruled the fire to be the work of an arsonist. Inside the home they discovered the odor of gasoline, a partially burnt gasoline can and a butane lighter on the floor near the point of origin.
Dunn noted evidence of floor burn characteristics indicating the use of a poured, ignitable liquid.
On April 24, 2014, McCoy questioned Mildred Lafferty, who stated on the morning of the fire, her husband, Donald Lafferty, had prepared breakfast while she sat in their living room.
Her breakfast and coffee were ready for her when she went to the kitchen, but she said her coffee tasted "horrible." She drank one cup, but couldn't drink another as she normally would have done.
After breakfast, the couple drove to Poplar Bluff where she became dizzy, and after a short time, she asked to return to their home near Bloomfield.
After arriving home, she laid down on the couch and went to sleep.
She awakened and noticed her husband moving a cedar chest from their bedroom that had been there for 16 years. It contained pillows, quilts and a blanket his daughter had made him for Christmas.
When she asked him why he was moving the trunk, he stated he was "tired of stumping his toe on it."
He then removed a desktop computer from the home, telling her it had been smoking and he didn't want to catch the house on fire.
She said that the night of the fire, Lafferty went to Pizza Hut in Dexter. While he normally would have ordered a pizza through the drive-thru window, she stated, but this night, he went in to sit down for pizza.
During the investigation, McCoy stated it was discovered Lafferty was having a sexual relationship with Brandy Hicks. He had made numerous phone calls and text messages to Hicks on the night of the fire.
On May 9, 2014, McCoy met with Brandy Hicks at the Stoddard County Sheriff's Office.
She explained that she and her husband, Chris Hicks, had met Lafferty when they began attending a church that he pastored. She confirmed that she and Lafferty had a sexual relationship and that he had routinely paid she and her husband's bills, had given her spending cash and bought her two automobiles.
She stated that Lafferty and her husband had made a deal wherein Donald would pay them an unreleased amount of money to burn the house down, with the amount depending upon the "outcome of the fire."
Brandy Hicks stated they would receive more money if Mildred died in the fire.
The day before the fire, Brandy met Lafferty at West City Park where he told her of his plan. At that time, he gave her a key to the house, which she gave to her husband.
Hicks also noted Lafferty had rented a storage shed in Dexter where he had stored some household furnishings.
Phone records have reportedly shown multiple calls and text messages between Lafferty and Brandy Hicks before, during and after the time of the fire.
She stated that on the evening of the fire, she and her husband drove her vehicle to the Lafferty residence. Initially, she told McCoy that she had dropped her husband off at the residence, but her story later changed.
She admitted to having pulled the vehicle onto the grass. Chris Hicks used the key, and they both entered the residence. She stood within view as Chris poured gasoline on the floor. She admitted she could see Mildred Lafferty sleeping.
He then lit the gas, and the couple left the residence.
She drew a diagram of the home to show where the gasoline had been poured. It was consistent with the pattern found by the fire marshal.
Brandy Hicks stated that after the fire, she returned to Bloomfield and dropped Chris Hicks off at her apartment near what was then Zero's Bar. She then immediately headed to Dexter to meet Lafferty at Pizza Hut.
When she arrived, he walked up to the passenger door and entered the vehicle.
She stated that he asked, "Is it done?" She replied, "It's done."
The night after the fire, Brandy Hicks stated that she and her husband returned to the burned home and that she stole a bottle of prescription medication.
On May 9, Chris Hicks confirmed that Lafferty was routinely paying their bills; bought his wife two cars and that he suspected they were having an affair.
Chris Hicks denied any knowledge of the fire. When he learned what his wife had told police, he immediately stated that he wanted an attorney, and the interview concluded.
At another time in the investigation, David Dudley, a fire investigator with Midwest Fire Consulting Group who was hired by Shelter Insurance Group, interviewed Lafferty. In the interview, he acknowledged knowing who had started the fire, but refused to give names.