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Larry Ford, Witness for the State


MR. PANOSH: Special Agent --


Your Honor, we'd seek to introduce as State's 107 the report detailing his findings.

MR. LLOYD: We'd object, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Overruled. The Court'll allow the introduction.

MR. PANOSH: Agent Ford, please.

LARRY FORD, being first duly sworn, testified as follows during DIRECT EXAMINATION by MR. PANOSH:

Q    State your name, please, sir.

A    My name is Larry Ford.

Q    And you're a special agent with the State Bureau of Investigation?

A    Yes, sir.

Q    In addition to your basic training, which enabled you to become a special agent, did you have further specific training in the field of forensic chemistry?

A    Yes, sir, I do.

Q    And would you detail that for the ladies and gentlemen of the jury, please.

A    Yes. I have a bachelor's degree. I graduated from Appalachian State University in 1971. In the fall of 1971, I was hired by the SBI. I went through the SBI academy. It's a 500-hour course in criminal investigation. Upon completion of that, I was assigned to the Southern Piedmont District, for a period of a year and a half.


In February of 1973, I transferred to the Raleigh lab. I began my training at that time, and I have continued training to this day.

The area of training that I first began was in the examination of fire debris, and I completed that in 1973. I've been working arson cases, fire cases, since that date.

I've attended numerous seminars and schools throughout the state and the country. I'm a member of the Southern Association of Forensic Scientists, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, International Association of Arson Investigators. I now train new employees. I teach in the SBI Academy and the North Carolina Justice Academy in fire investigation, fire and arson investigation.

I'm an assistant supervisor of the trace evidence section of the lab in Raleigh.

MR. PANOSH: We'd tender him as an expert in the field of forensic chemistry, specifically in the analysis of debris from arson.

THE COURT: Do you wish to examine his credentials?

MR. LLOYD: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: The Court finds SBI Agent Larry Ford to be an expert in the field of forensic chemistry and arson analysis, by training, education and experience, and may express an opinion in that area.


Q    In the course of your duties, sir, did there come a time when certain samples were submitted to you by the Guilford County Sheriff's Department in reference to the death of Patricia Gail Kimble?

A    Yes, sir.

Q    And what samples were submitted to you?

A    I received samples on three different occasions. October the 10th, I received what was labeled as Item Number 1, which is a bag containing burned clothing. On October the 10th, I also received Items 1-A and 2-A, 1-A being a bag containing a red plastic gasoline can, containing liquid, and 2-A as a bag containing burned carpet and liquid.

On October the 12th, I received items -- received five items. Item Number 10 was a can containing foam padding debris, 11's a can containing foam padding debris, 12 was a can containing foam padding debris, 13 was double bags containing foam padding, and 14 was double bags containing foam padding.

Q    And did you conduct an analysis, to determine whether or not those were accelerants?

A    Yes, I did.

Q    And did you conduct an analysis to determine whether the clothing and the padding debris had accelerants on them?

A    Yes, sir.

Q    What were the results of your analysis, please?


A    Examination of Items Number 1, Number 2-A, Number 11 and Number 12 showed hydrocarbons in the range of residual gasoline. Number 1 was the burned clothing. Number 2-A was the burned carpet and liquid. Number 11 was the can containing foam padding debris. And Number 12 also was a can containing foam padding debris.

Q    And in the course of your investigation, did you determine whether or not the liquid in the red plastic container was -- what the identity of that liquid was?

A    Yes. Examination of Item Number 1-A, which was the red plastic gasoline can, contained gasoline.

Q    And now, as to the accelerants that you found on each of the items, the clothing and the carpet and padding that you examined, did that also test consistent with the accelerant gasoline?

A    Yes. There were three additional items. Item Number 10, which was the can containing foam padding debris, Number 13, which is the bags containing foam padding, and 14, which is a bag containing foam padding, each contained residual gasoline.

MR. PANOSH: May I approach?

(The Court nodded his head up and down.)

Q    I show you then a report, Number 108. Does that detail your findings?

A    This is the first page of the report that I issued.


Q    I'm sorry. Two-page report?

A    Yes, sir.

Q    Okay.

(Mr. Panosh handed another document to the witness.)

Q    Do those two pages detail your findings?

A    Yes, sir.

MR. PANOSH: Seek to introduce Number 108

MR. LLOYD: Object, Your Honor.

MR. PANOSH: -- the two-page document.

THE COURT: Overruled. The Court'll allow the introduction of State's Exhibit 108.

MR. PANOSH: No further. Thank you.

THE COURT: Questions?

MR. LLOYD: Just a few questions, Your Honor.


Q    Agent Ford, you tested the clothing sample that you got and the carpet padding samples, and you determined that both of those samples had unburned gasoline residue still remaining in them; is that correct?

A    Which specific items are you talking? Is this Item Number 1?

Q    Well, let's take the clothing first.

A    Okay.

Q    And your tests indicated that that had residual gasoline left in the clothing; is that correct?


A    It had hydrocarbons in the range of residual gasoline, that is correct.

Q    All right. And when you say "hydrocarbons in the range of residual gasoline," that means basically that gasoline might have several different hydrocarbons in it, but that's consistent with what we normally refer to as gasoline; is that right?

A    Well, the hydro-- there are numerous hydrocarbons. There are many, many, over 100 different hydrocarbons that make up gasoline. When gasoline begins to evaporate, it loses the most volatile components first, very much like gasoline that's left in the lawn mower over the winter, it won't -- the gasoline then changes form during that period of time. It is gasoline, but in correct terminology, it's residual gasoline. It still has components, but it doesn't have all the components of gasoline. And that's what I found in these samples, that it's residual gasoline.

Q    All right. And Agent Ford, did you -- in the course of your examination of the clothing item, did you happen to smell it?

A    Yes, sir, I did.

Q    Did it smell like gasoline to you?

A    Let me refer to what I've noted at the time. (Time was allowed for the witness.)

A    I was unable to detect any odor of gasoline when I --


when I did attempt to smell it.

Q    Okay. That was on the clothing sample?

A    That was on the clothing.

Q    All right. Now, directing your attention to the carpet padding samples, you made a similar finding with respect to them, that you had these residual hydrocarbons that were consistent with gasoline; is that correct?

A    There were hydrocarbons in some of them that had in the range of residual gasoline, and there was actually enough that I could identify as residual gasoline.

Q    All right. But at least some of the samples that were submitted to you did in fact have those hydrocarbons that were consistent with gasoline?

A    Well, they all had the hydrocarbons. Some of the testing allowed me to be more specific about what I reported. It's just a matter of terminology.

Q    All right.

A    They all -- they all had residual gasoline, basically, is what --

Q    They all had residual gasoline?

A    They all had --

Q    All right.

A    -- residual gasoline, except for the liquid sample, which was out the gasoline container.

Q    And that had --


A    Gasoline.

Q    -- not just residual gasoline, but real gasoline?

A    It had gasoline. It had not been evaporated. It showed very slight effects of gaso-- of evaporation, if any, or heating or burning. Actually, all heating or burning does is just, it increases the rate that the gasoline evaporates.

MR. LLOYD: That's all I have.

THE COURT: You may step down.

MR. PANOSH: If I could.


Q    Agent, when you say "residual gasoline," are you indicating that you could identify the substance gasoline in there?

A    Yes, sir.

Q    And would you be more specific as to what you meant when you said that the gasoline changes its properties as it is burned.

A    Gasoline has a very, very low flash point, which is the temperature at which it will ignite easily. That's why gasoline will -- runs very well in the car. It's why, if you have gasoline in your lawn mower, when it's fresh, you pull the starter and it starts very easily. Over a period of time, just from evaporation, from normal evaporation, the flash point rises, it will increase, and -- because you're


-- because the volatile components of things that make it have a low flash point evaporate away.

And this is what happens in a very slow process, such as sitting in a container or sitting in a gas can over a period of months. Or it can happen very rapidly, which is in a high temperature, such as in a fire. But you lose the volatile components, the things that make it have a low flash point very quickly when it evaporates, leaving the higher flash point or higher boiling point materials, that are still components of gasoline, but the material may have a flash point much, much higher than, say, minus 50 degrees, which is normal. It just changes the character of the product there. Still the components of gasoline are there, but it's changed over a period of time, because of the evaporation.

Q    So if you find the components, you would say that's  consistent with residual gasoline?

A    That's correct.

MR. PANOSH: No further.

MR. LLOYD: No questions, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Step down, sir.

(The witness left the witness stand.)



Published August 15, 2006.  Report broken links or other problems.

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