BAILEY FIRE 12 FAMILY MEMBERS PERISH IN MORNING FIRE
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For Early Parkersburg History and Old Pictures
This is the House after the fire
Susie Bailey & Roger Bailey
Bailey Kids before the Fire
The Bailey Family Funeral
Susan & Roger Bailey Started Fire killed all Family with Lee Bechtold & Deputy
picture Courtesy Gary Traugh
fire inspectors continued sifting through ashes and debris of the Charles Bailey residence on RT. 2, south in efforts to determine the cause of the flash fire which took the lives of 12 members of the family early Sunday morning, June 8,1969. the fire, termed "the worst in Parkersburg's history" as far as loss of lives, erupted around 1:30 a.m. Sunday, apparently starting in the dining room of the six-room, single floor dwelling on rt. 2,near the Jimbo's drive-in Restaurant. Charles Bailey, 41, his wife, Ruby 36, and 10 of their 13 children perished in the early morning blaze.
the children killed in the fire, as listed by fire station one include Nancy, 17, Patricia, 11, Claudia, eight, Mary, 7 , Tim, six, Debbie, five, Steve, 3, Dale, 2, Ted, 1 and Ricky, six months. Obie Bailey 63, grandfather of the children, and two other children of the family, Susie, 15, and Rodger, 13, escaped the blaze.
the elder Bailey, who is the father of Mr. Bailey, was said to have escaped by crawling out a bathroom window. the other two children were said to have been sleeping in a two-room building separated from the dwelling. Obie bailey was admitted to Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital for treatment for shock, and was released last night. the two surviving children were taken to the home of a relative.
another daughter of the Baileys, Mrs. Judy Fury, was reported en-route here from Illinois to make funeral arrangements for the victims whose bodies were taken to the Leavitt funeral home. the father was employed as maintenance superintendent for the Wood County Court, according to fire department personnel.
Jim Malone, Pettyville, who was assisting firemen in pulling hose, was struck by an overhead electrical wire when the wire fell to the ground. he was taken to Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital by Knotts ambulance, treated and released.
according to Chief fire inspector Dale Pringle, by the time firemen were in sight of the fire, the house was totally engulfed in flames. he said that firemen made an effort to reach the persons inside, but were driven back by the heat. LT William George of the fire department gave this account of the tragedy:
"when we arrived, the house was fully engulfed by flames. police and about 30 bystanders had tried to rescue the occupants. I would say they were dead by the time we arrived. we still don't understand what happened. most of the bodies were near windows and doors but couldn't make it out of the house. in my 19 years of fire fighting, this was the worst, the Lieutenant said. fire department Lt Seldon Wigal said that in his 27 years of service, the fire was the worst from the standpoint of lives lost
Pringle said the walls were left standing but the interior and contents were destroyed and half of the roof was burned away. he said it was his belief that the fire started in the dining room; other than that, there was no information immediately as to what caused the blaze. the Bailey family had only recently moved into the house, owned by attorney Robert Keltner.
Parkersburg - Charlie Lawrentz spent almost 30 years as a police officer in Parkersburg .
he responded to thousands of incidents and made more arrests than he cares to remember. in his law enforcement career Lawrentz has vivid memories of crime scenes, but few are as memorable as the Bailey family fire in June 1969.
"that was a bad fire," he said. Lawrentz, a Vietnam veteran, had been on the force two years and was on patrol early Sunday morning, June 8, 1969, when he responded to a fire on the South Side near Division street and West Virginia Route 2. the tar-paper house, a seven-room structure with an adjacent two-room dwelling, was in one of the poorer sections of the city. "when I rolled in, it was totally engulfed," Lawrentz said.
Lawrentz got out of his car and ran toward the house. he quickly realized there were people trapped inside although he had no idea how many.
"there was a female in the back of the house screaming," he said. "I remember picking up this huge rock, which I probably couldn't pick up during normal circumstances. I threw it through the back of the house." Lawrentz said the rock crashed through the wall, but the heat and flames were too great. he could see a female inside, but there was nothing Lawrentz could do to save her. the rickety structure didn't appear safe. "she was totally engulfed in flames. I couldn't get in there to get her and the back of the house started falling in," he said. "if you went in that house, you would have been dead."
Lawrentz said the heat from the fire was unbearable. it burned off the power lines going into the house. "you couldn't stand it." he went to another side of the house where he was told a baby was still inside. "I got underneath a window and reached in," he said. "I got my head up to the window and I could see black smoke billowing (out). I could see a baby blanket and I pulled it toward the window. "there was a baby bottle there. about the time I got the baby over where I could see it, the bottle blew up.
"the baby was fried," he said. "everybody else (in the house) was fried." when fire crews got the blaze under control, 12 people living in the house were dead. Charles Bailey, 41, his wife, Ruby, 36, and 10 of their children from 17 years to 6 months old perished. "a dead body never bothered me, (dead) kids do," Lawrentz said.
Three people, including two of the Baileys' children, Susie, 15, and Roger, 13, had escaped along with their 63-year-old Grandfather Obie Bailey. Charles Bailey had been employed by the County as a maintenance Supervisor. originally from Wirt County , the family had relocated to the South Side for his job. they lived in the rented house for about two weeks prior to the fire. as fire officials descended on the scene sifting through the debris, it became obvious the fire had been intentionally set. former Wood County Sheriff Lee Bechtold recalled discovering an open gasoline can on Charles Bailey's County vehicle. fire inspectors found numerous points of origin for the fire inside the house. suspicion quickly fell on the three survivors.
Susie and Roger Bailey slept in a two-room structure adjacent to the house. the two escaped the fire, but were nowhere to be found during the blaze. officials later discovered the two ran to a nearby store where Susie called her boyfriend, 19-year-old John Bumgarner, to pick them up. when Bumgarner arrived Roger Bailey told him the house was on fire. the three walked to a relative's house on nearby Hamilton Street. Obie Bailey was the only adult who survived the blaze. separated from his wife, who was living in Canton Ohio , Obie Bailey had been staying with another daughter and her family in Wirt County . Bailey told investigators he had Medical problems and was receiving treatment in Parkersburg while staying with Charles and Ruby.
Bailey told investigators the fire awoke him and he escaped by crawling out a bathroom window. law enforcement officials arriving at the fire gave told investigators Bailey was sitting in a chair near the flames, making no effort to help those trapped inside. he had also reportedly given investigators false information regarding his finances. law enforcement officials and many relatives felt Obie Bailey was the culprit.
as relatives sat around the kitchen table at Carl Bailey's Hamilton Street house in the early morning hours of June 9 speculating on Obie Bailey's possible motives, Roger Bailey spoke in defense of his Grandfather. ill bet $10,000 Grandpop didn't set that fire," Roger reportedly told his relatives, according to statements given to investigators and obtained by the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.
if you will not tell anyone, I will tell you something about that fire, Roger told his relatives and then confessed to helping Susie Bailey set fire to the home. Roger Bailey would again confess to assistant state fire marshal E. Roush and another relative, Helen Enoch.
Susie Bailey, when asked about the fire by Roush, also confessed in the presence of Enoch. Bailey, a pretty, dark-haired 15-year-old, had reportedly been quarreling with her parents over Bumgarner. according to interviews with police, the two were first cousins and her father did not want her seeing the young man. he threatened to have Bumgarner arrested and send Susie Bailey to Reform School.
a little more than 24 hours after the fire, Susie Bailey and her brother Roger were in the Wood County prosecuting attorney's office, charged with the Murder of their parents. it wasn't long before 10 additional counts of Murder were tacked on for the deaths of their siblings: Nancy, 17; Theresa, 11; Claudia, 9; Mary, 7; Tim, 6; Debbie, 5; Frank, 4; Dale, 3; Charles, 1 and 5-month- old Rickie. Claudia Bailey was just a week past her Ninth birthday. Mary Bailey was two days shy of her Eighth birthday. the deaths of the 12 Baileys at the hands of the two children would be the worst case of alleged parricide in the nation. in addition to being big news locally, the eyes of the world turned its attention to Parkersburg .
March 31 1970 State West Virginia V. Susie Jane Bailey
Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.
State of West Virginia
Susie Jane Bailey
in criminal proceeding on indictment for Murder, the circuit court of Wood County , Donald F. Black, Judge, sustained defendants motion to suppress evidence, and writ of error was granted. Haymond, Judge. the opinion of the court was delivered by: Haymond Criminal Law --
a Writ of error granted by this court upon application of the state to review an order of a Circuit Court in a criminal case suppressing evidence to be introduced by the state at the trial of an indictment for murder in such case is not authorized by any provision of the constitution or statutes of this state and will be dismissed as improvidently awarded.
in this criminal proceeding upon an indictment for murder against the defendant Susie Jane Bailey, an infant of the age of fifteen years, returned by a grand jury of wood county, the state of West Virginia sought and obtained from this court a writ of error and Supersede as to an order of the Circuit Court of Wood County, entered October 15, 1969, by which that court upon a pretrial hearing overruled a plea of immunity by the defendant and sustained her motion to suppress and ruled as inadmissible evidence at the trial of the case statements made by her to certain investigating officers and her acts at the scene of a fire in which her parents and her ten brothers and sisters perished.
by this writ of error, awarded January 26, 1970 at the instance of the state, it seeks review and reversal of the foregoing order and remand of the case to the circuit court of wood county for trial. upon motion of the state it was granted leave to move to reverse the order of the circuit court and on march 3, 1970, the case was submitted for decision upon the motion to reverse, the transcript of the evidence, and the written briefs and the oral arguments of the attorneys in behalf of the state and the attorneys in behalf of the defendant.
on June 8, 1969, E. L. Roush, an assistant state fire marshal, began an investigation of a fire which consumed the home of Charles Bailey at Parkersburg , West Virginia , during the night of June 7 and 8, 1969. in the fire Charles Bailey, his wife, and ten of their thirteen children perished. their three surviving children are Mrs. Judith Fury, an adult, the defendant Susie Jane Bailey age fifteen years, and Roger Bailey age thirteen years and a defendant in other criminal proceedings in which he has been indicted for murder.
during the investigation conducted by Roush, Pringle, an inspector of the Parkersburg bureau of fire prevention, and Barrows, a city detective, which continued from June 8 to June 10, 1969, the defendant, upon interrogation, made certain statements, oral and written, and engaged in certain acts of an incriminating nature at the scene of the fire in connection with its cause and origin; and as a result of the information given by the defendant in the investigation she was arrested at noon on June 10, 1969, and counsel was appointed by the circuit court of wood county to represent her.
the defendant was indicted by the grand jury on July 15, 1969 and twelve murder indictments were returned against her. on July 18, 1969, she pleaded not guilty to the charge contained in one of the indictments. on August 5, 1969, the court fixed September 15, 1969 as the date for a hearing on a plea of immunity by the defendant and on that day she filed a motion to suppress the statements made by her. a pretrial hearing on the motion was held on September 15 and 16, 1969. the hearing revealed that the defendant had an I.Q. of 71; that her mental age, expressed in terms of chronological age, is ten years and four months; that her reading ability is on the fifth grade level; and that the normal I.Q. range is 90 to 110.
after the defendant had filed a plea of not guilty but before the commencement of any trial of the case upon its merits, and in connection with the order of October 15, 1969, the Circuit Court filed a written opinion giving the reasons for its decision to sustain the motion of the defendant to suppress the evidence. from its opinion it appears that the court concluded that the record did not reveal that the defendant had any prior police or trial experience or that she knew of her constitutional rights to remain silent and to have the assistance of counsel, and that she was not informed of the advice and assistance that could be afforded her by an attorney. in consequence, it was the opinion of the court that she did not knowingly and intelligently waive her constitutional rights to remain silent and to have advice of counsel and that her waiver of her rights was invalid.
on October 20, 1969, the Court overruled the motion of the state to stay proceedings in the case pending an appeal to this court, and on October 22, 1969, the state filed its notice of intent to appeal. the state filed an affidavit of the prosecuting attorney in which he states that the case of the state against the defendant had been based almost entirely upon the defendant's statements to Roush and the city detective and the evidence which she has furnished, and that without such statements and evidence it would be impossible to obtain conviction in any of the twelve cases in which she has been indicted for murder.
the state assigns as error the action of the court (1) in ruling that the defendant could not and did not knowingly and intelligently waive her constitutional rights to remain silent and have the advise of counsel and that the waiver signed by her is invalid; and (2) in sustaining the motion of the defendant to suppress as evidence the statements made by her to the fire marshal and the city detective and the acts of the defendant at the scene of the alleged crime and all the evidence obtained as a result of her statements and acts. the threshold and controlling question to be determined is whether the state may obtain, and this court has jurisdiction to grant, a writ of error to review an order of a circuit court suppressing, before the trial, evidence sought to be admitted in a forthcoming trial upon an indictment for an offense which is punishable by imprisonment of the defendant. if the answer to that decisive question is in the negative the questions whether an interlocutory order in a criminal case is appeasable in the absence of a statute making it appealable and whether the ruling of the court on the motion to suppress was correct need not be considered or determined.
in 4 AM. Jur. 2d, appeal and error, section 4, are these statements: "appellate jurisdiction is derived from the constitutional or statutory provisions by which it is created, and can be acquired and exercised only in the manner prescribed. thus, the determination of the existence and extent of appellate jurisdiction depends upon the terms of the statutory or constitutional provisions in which it has its source."; and "if the matter does not fall within the appellate jurisdiction, the appeal should be dismissed,
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