Convicted of First-Degree Murder and Arson, Illinois
William Amor was convicted of arson and murder from a fire that occurred in Naperville, Illinois in September, 1995, in the apartment Mr. Amor shared with his wife and mother-in-law. His mother-in-law, Marianne Meceli, was killed in the fire.
Even though the fire in the apartment’s living room burned beyond flashover for more than 10-minutes, the Naperville Fire Department Fire Investigator claimed to have pinpointed the area of the fire’s origin to the area around a swivel chair near the sliding glass door to the balcony. He based this opinion on “fire pattern analysis” and the presence of a single V-pattern near the swivel chair.
Although fire pattern analysis can often be relied upon to help a fire investigator determine the growth and progression of fire in a pre-flashover setting, the reliability of using basic fire pattern analysis, and in this case the presence of a single dominant fire pattern, in a fire that has burned beyond flashover has been found to be particularly unreliable. In some exercises, the accuracy rate of determining a fire’s area of origin in a post-flashover fire was between 6 and 10%.
Mr. Amor’s conviction was also based on a “confession” by Mr. Amor that he dropped a lit cigarette onto a pile of newspapers where he had previously spilled vodka. This admission was obtained after more than 17-hours of continuous interrogations, interviews and polygraph examinations.
Moreover, research conducted by the Arson Research Project and others has clearly shown that a lit cigarette does not provide a sufficient ignition source to ignite vodka soaked newspaper in a manner consistent with Mr. Amor’s confession.