Suspicious Fire Destroys Dallas Cowboy Rolando McClain’s Home
On December 22, 2014 former Alabama Crimson Tide and current Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain’s home was sadly burned to the ground. The loss of one’s home is devastating, both financially and from a personal standpoint. McClain’s house was a six-bedroom, five-bath brick house that was previously listed for sale on real estate websites for $1.5 million. Once the fire department responds to the emergency, the next step is to determine the cause of the fire – usually looking at numerous factors to determine if the fire was accidental or caused intentionally. Both local law enforcement officials, as well as insurance companies, will usually conduct an investigation to make a proper determination.
If the criminal investigation leads to an arrest, the suspect is likely to be charged with arson. Arson is the intentional burning of any structure or building; in Alabama, there are varying degrees of arson depending upon if a person was inside the structure and whether the intent of setting the fire was insurance fraud.
As with the fire at McClain’s home, many signs are already pointing to this becoming a criminal investigation due to circumstantial evidence. First, a witness reported seeing a car speed away from the neighborhood where the fire occurred; police will surely investigate this lead. During the course of the investigation, police will try to determine if an accelerant was used to start the fire.
Other clues police will look for that tend to show a fire was purposely set include looking at fire patterns, the appearance of multiple fire locations, trailers/ignitable liquids/unusual fuel distribution found, furniture all lumped together, incendiary/explosive devices found (lighters, matches), and other circumstantial evidence. The fact that the house remained unsold on the market could be seen as a motive to collect insurance money as well.
The Code of Alabama, Article 3, Section 13A-7-41 (Class A felony), Section 13A-7-42 (Class B felony), and Section 13A-7-43 (Class A misdemeanor) cover the crime of arson. If it is determined that McClain is responsible for intentionally setting this fire, and he files an insurance claim, he can be charged with second degree arson (13A-7-42) and also insurance fraud. Like most crimes, the elements of them vary from state to state. If a Class B felony is charged, the sentence a defendant may receive can be no less than two years in Alabama State Prison and no more than twenty years; the maximum fine is $10,000. However if a person is convicted of the Class A arson, a defendant’s sentence can be no less than 10 years an no more than life or 99 years; fines cannot exceed $60,000.
In Florida, if one is convicted of second degree arson, they are facing a maximum incarceration of 15 years in Florida State Prison and a $10,000 fine. If they are convicted of first degree arson, they are facing a maximum incarceration of 30 years in Florida State Prison and a $10,000 fine.
Section 13A-7-41 – Code of Alabama – Arson in the first degree.
(a) A person commits the crime of arson in the first degree if he intentionally damages a building by starting or maintaining a fire or causing an explosion, and when:
(1) Another person is present in such building at the time, and
(2) The actor knows that fact, or the circumstances are such as to render the presence of a person therein a reasonable possibility.
(b) Arson in the first degree is a Class A felony.
Section 13A-7-42 – Code of Alabama —- Arson in the second degree.
(a) A person commits the crime of arson in the second degree if he intentionally damages a building by starting or maintaining a fire or causing an explosion.
(b) A person does not commit a crime under subsection (a) if:
(1) No person other than himself has a possessory or proprietary interest in the building damaged; or if other persons have those interests, all of them consented to his conduct; and
(2) His sole intent was to destroy or damage the building for a lawful and proper purpose.
(c) The burden of injecting the issue of justification in subsection (b) is on the defendant, but this does not shift the burden of proof.
(d) A person commits the crime of arson in the second degree if he intentionally starts or maintains a fire or causes an explosion which damages property in a detention facility or a penal facility, as defined in Section 13A-10-30, with reckless disregard (because of the nature or extent of the damage caused or which would have been caused but for the intervention of others) for the safety of others.
(e) Arson in the second degree is a Class B felony.
806.01 Arson.—Florida Statutes
(1) Any person who willfully and unlawfully, or while in the commission of any felony, by fire or explosion, damages or causes to be damaged:
(a) Any dwelling, whether occupied or not, or its contents;
(b) Any structure, or contents thereof, where persons are normally present, such as: jails, prisons, or detention centers; hospitals, nursing homes, or other health care facilities; department stores, office buildings, business establishments, churches, or educational institutions during normal hours of occupancy; or other similar structures; or
(c) Any other structure that he or she knew or had reasonable grounds to believe was occupied by a human being, is guilty of arson in the first degree, which constitutes a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(2) Any person who willfully and unlawfully, or while in the commission of any felony, by fire or explosion, damages or causes to be damaged any structure, whether the property of himself or herself or another, under any circumstances not referred to in subsection (1), is guilty of arson in the second degree, which constitutes a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(3) As used in this chapter, “structure” means any building of any kind, any enclosed area with a roof over it, any real property and appurtenances thereto, any tent or other portable building, and any vehicle, vessel, watercraft, or aircraft.