That may be a problem if you are looking for the perfect explosion but
if you are just looking for a blast big enough to collect the
insurance, the mix is not that important. It does not take one PSI,
impressed on the total envelope of a house to take the roof off and
blow the walls out, particularly in the 99% of the country that does
not have a hurricane code.
That is the main intent of the hurricane strapping we have in Florida.
It protects against uplift.
One PSI of pressure from a mediocre explosion ends up being 230,000
pounds of uplift on the ceiling of a 1600 sq/ft house.
100 16d "toe nails" in 25 trusses is not going to hold down an uplift
close to a quarter million pounds. The 5000 pounds or so of roof is
insignificant to that much uplift..
And he doesn't even need to do that much. Have the blow out screw with
the wood frame of the house and even moving it a few inches is probably
enough in most cases to total out the house. People get fixated on the
big outcome and think THAT is what the plan was. It was probably thought
the boom was going to be much less.
America is at that awkward stage. It's too late
to work within the system, but too early to shoot
You can't bring "homicide charges" because "homicide" (the killing of one
human being by another) is not, per se, a crime.
In my state, there are five kinds of homicide:
3. Negligent homicide
Only the first three are criminal offenses. Here are examples of the
differences: Two men on a deer-hunting trip when one shoots and kills the
1. With premeditation, the first hunter simply shoots and kills the second.
2. During a heated argument, the second hunter is shot. MANSLAUGHTER.
3. Hunter one is drunk and improperly handles his gun. NEGLIGENT.
4. Hunter #2 shoots at #1 first, #1 returns fire killing #2. JUSTIFIABLE.
5. Hunter #2 jumps from behind bush wearing a deer costume. EXCUSABLE.
The gas air mixture has to be right to get a good explosion.
This can't be guaranteed before ignition takes place.
And a source of ignition has to be provided somehow.
It's a murder like these stupid Hollywood films where the victim is
deliberately murdered by dropping an electrical appliance in the bath.
Concocted by idiots that know nothing.
For idiots that know nothing to watch.
We have an alternative lesser charge of manslaughter over here for
death by carelessness.
If you have a gas leak in the basement, I garantee that somewhere in the
house the mixture will be perfect, and that somewhere will change over
time as more gas fills the house.
The occupants of the house probably turned down the thermostat to
somewhere between 60 and 65f before they left.
This would be a clever way to set off the explosion.
The furnace is working, the house is sitting at 70f. You set the
thermostat to 65, you create your gas leak near the furnace, and you get
everyone out and go to the casino where you'll be spending the night.
It will take hours for the house temp to fall to 65, and all the while
the house is filling with gas. You turn off the water heater (or dial
it down to some low temp so it doesn't come on).
The house cools, the thermostat kicks in, the furnace ignition comes on,
If I wanted to blow up a house with gas I would calculate the gas
flow from an open pipe, figure out how long to leave it open to get
the required mixture, and set up an electrical ignitor triggered by a
timer set to the required time. Dead simple - and almost fool-proof.
Now I'm sure Harry could screw it up using british technology - and a
lucas ignition system.
The trick is doing it without leaving an incriminating piece of
The best might be as simple as a candle burning at one end of the
house and a burner on the stove turned on at the other. Put a pan of
water on the stove to make it plausible that you were cooking
something or simply adding humidity to the house.
You don't have to INTEND to kill someone. Like in
this case. It could have been done to collect insurance,
not to kill someone. Still, if someone is killed unintentionally,
you can be charged with murder.
As for previous cases, how about this one:
Josh Powell tried to kill his two young sons with a hatchet before the
flames of the fiery explosion he had ignited engulfed them all, police
Powell, 36, failed to kill his sons Charles, 7, and Braden, 5, but
still wounded them horribly before they died -- smoke in their lungs
-- in the gas-fueled explosion Sunday, according to police and the
Or how about this from, of all places, the UK:
"Gas engineer, 32, arrested on suspicion of manslaughter over blast
that killed toddler and destroyed four homes 'may have examined boiler
in one of the houses days before the explosion'
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But not deliberate. Just by bad luck all the conditions were
fulfilled for an explosion.
Most accidents are the result of several factors converging.
Like the Texas train smash.
The truck stopped.
The train was coming.
The people on the float were disabled and couldn't escape.
There is a difference between Natural Gas and Propane. With propane
being heavier than air a basement gas leak can go undetected,
smell-wise - and still explode. NG is a bit different - being lighter
than air the smell gets around a lot faster.
If the gas is leaking in the basement of an enclosed house, it would
probably escape through the attic vents or the chimney and be dispersed high
above the ground. Then, since it's lighter than air it would rise up. A
whole house could fill with gas without anyone at ground level having any
idea there was a leak.
While there's a whole lot of circumstantial evidence here, it's going to be
very hard to prove arson beyond a reasonable doubt short of toolmarks and
fingerprints on the tools that made those marks.
Ve haf vays of mecking the scene talk (grin). Computer trails to
websites about the workings of furnaces and/or furnace explosions past.
If there was a timer or ignition device for the purposes of alibi
establishment (or even just a lack of death wish on the part of the
person setting up the blast) that can be traced back. There are many
others. These guys aren't rocket scientists, so they likely left some
kind of trail. The main problem will probably be finding it in the
AT least when I was involved, the IFD arson guys were good and the
ATF arson team was made up of wizards.
America is at that awkward stage. It's too late
to work within the system, but too early to shoot
Yeah, that's a bit of a problem. I think you'll recall my post a while back
about how all the handbooks of arson investigation, particularly regarding
various accelerants, are being rewritten because many were based on
anecdote, not science. The most damning was the discovery that what
investigators had previously classified as accelerant trails on the floor
were actually a peculiar distillation effect of the hot gas from melted
plastic furnishing condensing when they met the cooler floor surface. They
discovered this after one of the many test fires they set at the nearby Fire
Institute at UMd.
People were executed on the basis of faulty data that "arose" from examining
test fires from a time when there was very little plastic in a burning home.
So the arson investigation profession took a big hit, along with a number of
other forensic profession as more and more judges are requiring scientific
and not tradition or simulation based testimony. You may have heard of
Texas' recently discredited "dog lineup" that has been laughed out of
court - finally.
Somehow, a lot of these guys fail to detect the causes of deliberately set
fires which makes their "hit" rate in past cases very suspicious. Reminds
me of why cops score very high on detecting deception: they believe
everyone's lying. Their apparently accuracy as human lie detectors is
offset by their inability to detect the truth as often as other people.
Many accidental fires look very much like arson and vice-versa. I've sat
through the testimony of a lot of fire and accident reconstruction
specialists and have only been mildly impressed by some and complete
flabbergasted by the chutzpah of others when it came to try to assess fault.
Perhaps the prosecutors find more credible witnesses for criminal cases but
I doubt it. As OJ showed, with enough money a good defense attorney could
discredit Diogenes and Abe Lincoln both.
These cases are hard to prove (beyond appeal) because it's rare they can
find a witness or a CCTV recording showing the defendant setting the fire.
After a decade of CSI watching, jurors come to expect evidence that exists
only on TV shows. No witnesses, to a good lawyer, is almost all the
reasonable doubt you need. As you noted, when the crime scene is blown all
to hell and evidence has not been collected with the same care as it would
in a typical murder crime scene, you've got another evidentiary hill to
These people were out of town, apparently, when it happened. Making it even
harder for a jury to convict unless a timer device with a direct connection
to the defendant is found. Plenty of people I've seen post on Usenet
wouldn't hesitate to "Ben Quick" one of their neighbor once they realized
they weren't home. As other posters have noted, some of those evil people
have immolated themselves along with their target. As my WWII vet editor
told me: "Never underestimate stupidity." If in doubt, see the thread where
two of our regulars are arguing who is more stupid. (-:
How many timers exist in the average house that could be hijacked to
time the explosion? Timers that have a legitimate reason to be in the
house. Lots of them - and VERY hard to prove after an explosion and
fire what they were used for.
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