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David Allen Vickrey, Witness for the State


MR. PANOSH: Mr. Allan Fields, please.  I'm sorry. I'd like to start with Mr. Vickrey.  Mr. Vickrey, please.  

DAVID ALLEN VICKREY, being first duly sworn, testified as follows during DIRECT EXAMINATION by MR. PANOSH:  

Q    Would you state your name, please.  

A    My name is David Allen Vickrey.  

Q    And Mr. Vickrey, you're a firefighter; is that right?  

A    Yes, sir.   


Q    And you're a paid firefighter?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    Where do you work, sir?  

A    city of Greensboro.  

Q    Going back to October the 9th of 1995, were you so  employed? Were you working with the city then?  

A    No, sir.  

Q    Were you a volunteer at the time?  

A    Yes, I was.  

Q    with what company, please?  

A    Stockhausen, Incorporated.  

Q    Okay. And where were you a volunteer?  

A    Pleasant Garden Fire Department.  

Q    And did you live in the vicinity of Brandon Station Court?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    How close did you live?  

A    within a few thousand feet.  

Q    Did there come a time on or -- on October the 9th,  about 8:40, 8:45, when you received a message in reference to a fire at Brandon station Court?  

A    Yes, there was.  

Q    Would you tell the jury about that, please.  

A    Do you mean the events preceding or  

Q    First of all, how were you notified?  


A    We were notified by a paging system, through emergency  services.  

Q    And what information do you get over your pager?  

A    They give us the address and the description and what  type of call, and any other pertinent information that goes with it.  

Q    And when you get a call like that, you respond to the  station house; is that correct?  

A    Yes, sir. You respond to the station, but like if it's  in your response pattern to the station, lots of times we just stop by the call, to see what's going on first.  

Q    And on this occasion, did you receive -- after  receiving your page, did you go to Brandon station Court?  

A    Yes, sir, I did.  

Q    What happened when you arrived there?  

A    I pulled in the driveway, and Reuben, which is  Patricia’s brother, met me in the driveway and was explaining to me what was -- what was happening, who he why he'd been looking for, and why he was at the house.  

Q    And briefly, what did he tell you?  

A    He -- of course, he was scared and frantic, which I  would be, too, but he said he had tried to call his sister several times. She was supposed to be home, because he knew she'd left work early. And he couldn't get nobody to come to the door or answer the phone. He drove up and the car   


was in the driveway. He said he walked up to the door, the door was hot, and that's when he called the fire department. And he said he noticed that like fire or something under the house. And he pointed to the vent beside the stairs of the front porch, and you could see fire underneath the house.
And I proceeded -- I had my cell phone with me and proceeded to call communications or 911 again and give them a summary of what we had, so the first due engine could know what to do when they got there.
Q    Other than notifying the company of what to expect, what did you do?
A    I made a trip with Reuben around -- walked up to the front door, to see what he was talking about. And you could see a little bit of smoke coming from around it and out under the vents around the foundation. And it was hot, it was a lot of heat, so I couldn't get real close. And I made a trip around the house, the perimeter, to see the fire burning underneath the house. I opened the crawl space door and looked up under there and verified there was fire underneath it. And cut the gas bottles off, because they had gas packs for heating system. I cut those off, and proceeded back to the front of the house, and waited for the first engine to come, because I'd heard them respond already.
Q    When the engines arrived, did you take part in fighting


the fire?  

A    No, sir, I did not.  

Q    And that's because you didn't have your equipment; is  that  

A    Right. I didn't have my equipment with me.  

Q    Now, going back to earlier in that day, where had you  been prior to the fire?  

A    I left work, came home, piddled around outside for a  few hours, and left and went to town, to pick up some yard supplies.  

Q    Okay. What time did you leave work?  

A    5:00 o'clock.  

Q    What time did you arrive at your home?  

A    Approximately 5:30.  

Q    And in arriving at your home, did you have to go close  to Brandon station Court?  

A    Yes. I have to drive right by it.  

Q    Now, this is a cul-de-sac, right?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    so you don't actually go through the cul-de-sac?  

A    Huh-uh.  

Q    You go on the highway?  

A    Right. I go on the highway, and the cul-de-sac is to  the right, and then the other access road to Brandon station is on the left.


Q    So you were on Highway 22. How close were you to the house approximately?

A    When you pass down the road?

Q    Yes.

A    Within 500 feet.

Q    Did you notice anything at that time?

A    No, sir, I didn't.

Q    Did there come a time when you did notice something?

A    When I got home, and I got outside working, probably 20 minutes later, I noticed a smell in the air. Being in the fire service, you can associate smells with certain things that are burning. And it was a strange smell, and it didn't smell like a brush pile or leave fire or something that somebody might have been burning, cleaning up around the yard. It had that distinct smell of like actual structure fire, because you can associate it. With a car burning, you can associate a smell. The same with a house. And the man up the street from me on the corner has a trash barrel that he burns all the time, and I looked up the street and thought that's what was smoldering and didn't pay any more attention to it. I just said, well, maybe he's got some old trash or something in there and it's just putting off a terrible odor. But I didn't pursue or look any further.

Q    But you did smell smoke around 5:45, 5:50 then?

A    Yes, sir.


Q    Did you pass the house again after that?  

A    Yes, sir, I did.  

Q    When was that?  

A    Approximately 8-- about 8:15 in the evening, I was  returning from town, from picking up my supplies, and when I  got out of the truck, I smelled the same smell again. And I  thought  

Q    Again, this is at your home?  

A    Yes, sir, at my house.  

Q    And your estimate is 2,000 yards, is that what you  said, to the --  

A    To the house, about 2,000 feet.  

Q    I'm sorry. 2,000 feet?  

A    Uh-huh.  

Q    At any time prior to your arrival, after being notified  of the fire call, at any time prior to that, did you see  smoke or flames coming from Brandon station Court?  

A    No, sir, I did not.  

Q    Did you do anything else in the course of the evening  to investigate or fight the fire?  

A    Mostly all I did was assist, getting equipment off the  truck, bringing it up close to the house. I didn't want to get too close, because I didn't have any gear on. And  manpower was a little short, until some of the other units  got there and the other department that was notified. I   


helped pull hose, got a fan off, helped change air bottles, just whatever I could do, without actually being involved in the fire, just to assist.  

Q    And on the following day, October the 10th, did you  return to the fire scene?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    And what -- why did you do that?  

A    They asked for us to send a group down to help. They  just asked to go help, and that's all we were told, until we got there. We didn't know what kind of help, just they just needed assistance.  

Q    Did you assist the fire marshal's office?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    And how did you do that?  

A    They had us looking through piles of rubble out in the  front yard that were there when we arrived.  

Q    Where did this rubble come from?  

A    My guess would be, it looked like attic insulation.  

Q    Did it appear to be material that was removed from the fire, in the course of fighting the fire?

A    Yes, sir, it did.  

Q    And when you say looked through it, what do you mean?  

A    Look for anything that was strange or odd, that you  might not have in a pile of rubble in a fire like that, from a house fire. And --


Q    At that time, were you aware that this was a homicide  investigation?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    And would you describe the method that you and the  others used in searching through the rubble.  

A    I put on a pair of latex gloves, to protect any  evidence, I guess, so we wouldn't mess it up, or if we found something that had to be handled delicately, we could handle it. We picked through each piece, little by little, and put it in a separate pile, when it was discarded. So you'd grab a little bit and look through it, then you'd put it in a discard pile.  

Q    Did a very thorough search?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    To your knowledge, was anything found?  

A    No, sir.  

Q    And you searched only those items that had been removed  from the house in the course of fighting the fire; is that right?  

A    Yes, Slr.  

MR. PANOSH: Thank you, sir. No further  questions.  


Q Now, Mr. Vickrey, you indicated that you smelled smoke at your house somewhere around 5:45 or 5:50; is that right? 


A    About 5:30, yes, sir, when I got home from work.  

Q    And you noticed that that was an odd odor at that time?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    And you thought maybe it came from the man who was  burning trash, lived up the street from you?  

A    Yes, Slr.  

Q    And you basically put it out of your mind?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    And then you smelled that smell again, when you came  home, I believe you said about 8:15 --  

A    Uh-huh.  

Q    -- is that right?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    And didn't notice anything stronger or different about  it at that time, did you?  

A    No, sir, I didn't.  

Q    And you attributed it to the same cause at that time?  

A    It was a guesstimation, yes --  

Q    All right.  

A    -- to the same cause.  

Q    And Mr. Vickrey, you never did check out that barrel,  to see whether the man was burning trash or not, did you?  

A    No, sir, I did not.  

Q    All right. Because the next thing you knew, you got  the call to go to the fire itself, and you went immediately   


to the fire --  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    -- itself? And you indicated that when you got to the  house, you could actually see flames in the crawl space underneath the house; is that right?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    All right. It appeared to be burning the joist system  or the subflooring system up under there?  

A    It looked to be more than that. It looked to be like a  small campfire under there, from the distance that I was looking at from the end of the house.  

Q    All right. So possibly something had fallen down,  debris had fallen down, and that's what you saw?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    All right. And now, you indicated that you were the  one who opened the crawl space door --

A    Uh-huh.  

Q    -- is that right?  

A    Yes, sir.  

Q    Prior to that time, the crawl space door was shut, was it not?  

A    Yes, it was, uh-huh.  

Q    All right. And as near as you could tell, it was shut  all the way; is that right?  

A    Yes, sir.    


Q    When you searched through this rubble, did you find a  charred kitchen knife in that rubble?  

A    No, sir, I did not.  

MR. LLOYD: That's all I have, Your Honor.

THE COURT: step down, sir.  Next witness, please.  

MR. PANOSH: May he be excused, Your Honor?

THE COURT: Any objection?  

MR. LLOYD: No objection.  

THE COURT: You may be excused, sir. (The witness left the witness stand.)  



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

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