Today’s Houston Chronicle has a story that’s seems odd on several levels. Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina unfortunately lost his house to a fire this summer. Now the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office is saying the fire was intentionally set.
Justice Medina lived in Spring, near Houston, before being appointed to the bench in 2004 by Governor Rick Perry. At that time, his family moved to Austin, but at the time of the fire, the Spring house was occupied by Medina’s wife and one of the couple’s children. Here are excerpts from the story:
Investigators would not comment on a motive for the arson, which destroyed a neighboring house and damaged a third, chief investigator Dan Given said Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier Wednesday, the office issued a statement saying investigators ruled out an accidental cause and no charges were currently pending.
“I just know we have cooperated fully,” said Medina, appointed to the Texas Supreme Court in 2004 by Gov. Rick Perry. “I’m not going to comment on this thing any further.”
Investigators have identified six “people of interest,” all family members or friends of the judge. Investigators have also said a canine detected an accelerant in the fire.
The three homes are in Olde Oaks subdivision in northwest Harris County. Damage for all three has been estimated at $900,000.
Officials said Wednesday that Medina family members questioned about the June 28 blaze have been cooperative. The judge’s wife, Francisca Medina, and one of their children were home the night of the fire, officials said.
Investigators have subpoenaed cell phone and financial records of family and friends.
If a charge is filed, it would be arson of a habitation, a second-degree felony that carries a punishment ranging from probation to 20 years in prison, lead investigator Nathan Green said Tuesday.
The fire was started in Medina’s garage, which also burned in an accidental fire 10 years ago, Green said.
While officials would not discuss possible motives, Green has said a “red flag” was a foreclosure filed on the property in June 2006 that apparently was resolved that December.
The Medinas’ insurance policy had lapsed because premiums weren’t paid, Green has said. Medina was surprised to learn the 5,000-square-foot house in the 3500 block of Highfalls wasn’t covered.
The Medina family moved to Austin after the fire, Green said.
They still owe nearly $2,000 in homeowners association fees, according to Pam Bailey, owner of Chaparrel Management, which manages the Olde Oaks Community Improvement Association.
Bailey said the fees are two years past due.