Smoke detectors were unplugged and missing in the home of an Edmonton military mom accused of arson, attempted murder

Three smoke detectors were uninstalled during a house fire at the home of an Edmonton soldier on trial for arson and attempted murder of her three children, says an expert witness in a court trial.

This case relates to a fire that broke out on July 20, 2015. The accused (whose identity is under a publication ban to protect the identities of her children) and her children were at home at the time of the fire.

On Tuesday, February 14, the Alberta Court of Kings Bench heard the testimony of expert witness Mark Cyr, a fire investigator. He stated that three melted mounting plates were still mounted at the accused’s home. However, their smoke detectors were unplugged and “had been removed.”

He added that former CFB Fire Chief Joseph Mayer, and investigator Jean Grenier, were present at the scene during his investigation.

Cyr states that two smoke detectors were later recovered from a garbage bag in the home’s basement. The garbage bag contained items including fuel paste, adds Cyr.

Cyr’s investigation report noted the cause of the fire as “unknown”. However, when asked how sure he was that the fire was a deliberate act, he stated that it was a “100% intentionally set fire.”

According to Cyr, the fire started on the basement floor, and there was no reason why the fire should have started there.

“The fire started on the floor between the base of the stairs before you get to the furnace. There is no reason for that fire to have started,” says Cyr.

Describing the burn patterns, Cyr states that his investigation started on the home’s exterior, where he found no visible fire damage.

He added that the main and second floors of the house sustained damage from the smoke, but there was no flame damage on both floors. He pointed out some damages to the main floor, including a melted toilet paper holder in a washroom with the toilet paper not burnt.

“All the patterns on the second and main floor was a result of the smoke damage and heat,” states Cyr.

According to Cyr, the burn patterns led him to the basement, where he discovered “the seat” of the fire. He explained that the seat of the fire is a term used to indicate where a fire originates.

He determined the fire was caused by an “unidentified ignitable liquid… and an open flame source.”

Cyr added that burn patterns indicate that all windows and doors were locked at the time of the fire. Furthermore, there were no signs of a break-in. This part of his investigation was to determine if an intruder had started the fire.

During cross-examination, the defence lawyer asked if the short-circuited motherboard of a laptop could have started the fire. The laptop referred to was found in the area where the fire was determined to have started.

In response, Cyr stated that based on the burn pattern, the laptop was not the cause because it did not have the extent of burn that it otherwise would have.

The defence lawyer also asked Cyr if the accused’s home insurers were his biggest client, to which Cyr answered yes.

The defence lawyer, Curt Steves, requested that the court reconvene the following day to allow him time to review his case. He will determine if he wants to call a witness or give his closing statement. Justice Little granted his request.

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