Segments in this Video

Death by Arson (03:41)


This episode of "20/20" focuses on three parents who were charged with murdering their children by setting their homes on fire. Amanda Kelley's three children perished while she cashed checks to purchase groceries.

Evidence of Arson (04:42)

Detective Bobby Sandoval grew suspicious of Kelley's behavior when she displayed no emotion. The ground around Kelley's home tested positive for gasoline and the slab contained spalling. Kelley claimed her innocence and asked to take a polygraph, but was denied.

Kristine Bunch's Story (02:41)

Kristine Bunch spent 14 years in prison after being convicted of setting her mobile home on fire killing her three-year-old child. Jane Raley from The Center for Wrongful Convictions works to overturn the verdict.

Testing Arson Claims (02:41)

Fire expert John Lentini explains how fires can be misconstrued as arson. The Lime Street Fire Test demonstrated how a fire started with a cigarette could mimic one started with gasoline. Flashover occurs when a room suddenly ignites in flames.

Science of Arson Applied to Bunch's Case (02:26)

Lentini points out V burn patterns and multiple points of origin, which can be misconstrued as evidence of arson. When Bunch was convicted, arson experts did not understand flashover and the science of arson. The prosecutor maintains Bunch's guilt.

Back in Louisiana (03:26)

Papers circulate tales of Kelley's children being bound and covered in gasoline. Debra Mundie believes Kelley's guilty because she did not enter the house to help her children. Doug Carpenter demonstrates how gasoline alone will not cause spalling.

Debunked Myths about Fires (04:03)

Lentini explains how fire investigators learn their trade and rely on "old wives' tales." Arson expert John DeHaan believes that Kelley committed arson using an accelerant or by setting multiple fires. Bunch was convicted in the press prior to her trial as well.

How Tony Bunch Died (03:11)

Jane Raley believes the evidence provided at Bunch's trial is outdated. Jamie McAllister theorizes that electrical wires and a malfunctioning light caused the fire and points out erroneous conclusions drawn by the prosecution.

Overturning a Conviction (02:23)

Texas executed Todd Willingham after he was found guilty of setting his home on fire killing his three children. Last year a report to the Texas Forensic Science Commission stated that the arson investigation was based upon "personal beliefs." Lentini explains how a fireman can cause crazed glass and is not evidence.

Another Innocent Man (02:47)

A judge sentenced Curtis Severns to 17 years in prison for setting fire to his gun shop. Lentini provided videotape evidence that aerosol cans do start additional fires. Severns refused to accept a plea deal because he was innocent.

New Evidence Brought to Light (03:49)

Kelley remained in prison for four years because authorities believed the arson report valid. DeHaan admitted changes in arson science made him question his conclusions. Mike Shannon is thankful Kelley did not receive the death penalty.

Freed from Jail (03:32)

DeHaan has nothing to say to Kelley. Sandoval still believes her guilty. Ultimately Kelley accepted a plea deal of negligent homicide for leaving her children alone.

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Burned: Three Alleged Arson Cases Investigated

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



This episode of 20/20 examines three criminal investigations of individuals who were falsely charged because the fire investigator determined arson based upon outdated techniques. Amanda Kelley faced the death penalty after being accused of murdering her children by setting a fire. Kristine Burch spent 14 years in jail because the fire investigator did not understand flashover and Curtis Severns is still incarcerated for setting fire to his gun shop. John Lentini, one of the country's leading fire experts, points out flaws to each of the reports and explains new approaches to the science of arson.

Length: 41 minutes

Item#: BVL131227

ISBN: 978-1-64023-582-3

Copyright date: ©2010

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

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Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.