Suspicious Fire Investigation in Fresno

March 13, 2008 10:42:00 AM PDT
The house fire happened just a few months ago. A 33-year-old woman was critically injured in that fire. Investigators believe a man set his house on fire to kill his wife and collect insurance money. 33-year-old Jennifer Westfall was trapped inside the home, burned and nearly died. She said it is a miracle she survived but doesn't believe her husband would try to kill her.

Westfall: "There's fire all over the ceiling and doors."

Jennifer Westfall clearly remembers when the fire started. It was December 2007. She struggled to get out of her bedroom and couldn't. Her arms are still scarred from burns she suffered. Inside the home investigators found a propane tank and said the fire started here.

Westfall: "I was yelling for my husband, because I didn't know where he is."

Investigators believe 33-year-old Joe Westfall placed the tank inside opened it releasing explosive gases then left the house. He has not been charged with the crime. Authorities wrote in court documents an unidentified citizen contacted investigators two days after the fire.

"The citizen stated that prior to the fire, Westfall asked about getting rid of a person and a friend had suggested using propane to start a fire."

The affidavit further indicates the husband showed little emotion when he arrived at the scene. Jennifer doesn't believe that story.

Jennifer Westfall: "It was an accident nobody wanted this to happen. My husband loves me. I know that in my heart, he loves me. He wouldn't do anything like that.

Shockley: "At first, it was ruled under investigation. Wednesday it is ruled an arson."

Fresno Fire Department Spokesperson Ken Shockley declined to discuss specifics. Shockley says arson investigators are looking into the crime and could file charges in the future. But for Jennifer the fire left more than physical scars it's torn her apart emotionally.

Westfall: "I'm supposed to go back to work this month, but I don't think I can go. I'm afraid to get out of the house."

Once again charges have not been filed against the husband Joe Westfall. The man and the victim are living together at a rental home but he wasn't available for a comment. It's unknown when and if he will face charges but those could include arson and attempted murder.


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