Charges Dropped Against Parents Whose Son Died In Fire

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A prosecutor dropped charges against a couple accused of setting a fire that killed their 13-month old son.

Paul and Karen Stanley had been charged with aggravated murder and aggravated arson and could have faced the death penalty if convicted.

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh dropped the charges Monday, hours before the Stanleys' trial was to start.

Walsh said a lab report from the state fire marshal's office showed there wasn't conclusive evidence that an accelerant was used to start the fire. Turpentine, the so-called accelerant, is created naturally by the burning of fir and pine. Those two types of wood were used to construct the Stanley home.

A report from an electrical expert hired by the Stanleys concluded the fire probably was caused by an electrical malfunction.

"We continued to review the evidence as the case proceeded along and when we did receive new evidence, that it was probably electrical, we did the right thing and refused to go forward," Walsh said.

The couple's son, Bo, died Sept. 29, in a fire at their home near Akron. Paul Stanley, 30, told neighbors that smoke and flames prevented him from getting to his son's room.

"It hasn't been easy, but with the help of family and friends, we've just tried to stay strong," Paul Stanley said after his indictment was dismissed. "We're overwhelmed and relieved that it's over."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)