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Friday, Dec 3, 1999County: Worcester
Disposition: Not Charged
Case Images: 6 files available
Persons of Interest:
» Thomas S. Levesque
» Julie Ann King
Update 9/27/02: In May 2002 Charges were dropped against Levesque and King. As part of the agreement they will be on probation for 5 years, after which time the involuntary manslaughter charges would be dismissed. Worcester Superior Court Judge Daniel Toomey approved the deal after District Attorney John Conte received medical reports stating Levesque and King are marginally mentally impaired, which would make it just about impossible to try the case. In March 2002, the Supreme Judicial Court reinstated the charges; saying there was sufficient evidence to conclude the couple's choice not to report the fire "was intentional and reckless."
Thomas S. Levesque, age 37 and Julie Ann Barnes, age 19 started a fire in the Worcester, MA Cold Storage Warehouse by knocking over a candle during an argument they were having. The two were homeless and living in the warehouse with their dog and cat. They left the building without reporting the fire, which ultimately killed 6 firefighters and the couples dog and cat. Levesque allegedly had a cell phone with him the day of the fire, did not call 911, did not attempt to remove their pets, but instead went to The Worcester Common Outlets, a nearby mall to hang out.
Worcester, MA District Attorney John J. Conte contended that the two had a duty to report the fire and that failure to do so placed the firefighters in harm's way. Their conduct, amounted to involuntary manslaughter.
Superior Court Judge Hillman ruled that the defendants' failure to report the fire did not satisfy the standard for wanton and reckless conduct set forth in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs Barnett Welansky, a decision resulting from the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston, MA. The judge felt that failure to report the fire was merely negligent. "If the firefighters could not foresee the risks upon arrival, then the court cannot reasonably attribute such knowledge to these defendants at the time the fire began".
The defense lawyers, Edward P. Ryan Jr., representing Levesque and Louis P. Aloise and Michael C. Wilcox representing Barnes, filed motions to dismiss the indictments in July stating that the defendants were under no legal obligation to report the fire.
The prosecution conceded that while there is no stated duty to report a fire in Massachusetts, they did indeed accidentally start a fire, which then required a duty to report the fire and by not doing so put the 6 firefighters who were killed in serious harm.
Levesque, who is illiterate remained in jail, unable to post bail, until September 20th. Barnes, who was 3 months pregnant at the time of the fire was released from jail in July, after having her bail reduces and had been staying with her sister's adoptive parents Tim and Debb King, in Ellsworth, Maine. Barnes gave birth to Levesque's son "Joshua", who is in foster care in Massachusetts.
The King family is petitioning the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation for guardianship of Barnes and plans to seek custody of baby Joshua.
Worcester, MA District Attorney John J. Conte is considering issuing new charges as of 9/21/00.
No animal cruelty charges have been filed.
- The Boston Herald
- The Boston Globe
- Associated Press Wire
- The Worcester Telegram
- The Manchester Union Leader
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