The trial of Peter William Warren, 49, of Redwood Falls, who is facing charges of second degree unintentional murder and felony arson, began this week in Redwood County Fifth District Court.
After conducting jury selection Monday, opening statements were offered Tuesday afternoon, with testimony also beginning that day.
Warren, who is accused of allegedly starting a fire at Lakeside Manor in Redwood Falls, also faces homicide charges due to the fact that one of the residents of that apartment complex died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Steven Collins, Redwood County attorney, who is prosecuting the case on the behalf of the State of Minnesota, outlined the events leading up to and during the fire in his opening statements to the jury.
He told them it was Jan. 24, 2013 when a call came in to the Redwood County dispatch center. That 911 call was dropped, and as a result a law enforcement officer went to the scene to investigate. At the scene that officer saw smoke and then called additional emergency personnel, including the Red-wood Falls Fire Department, to the scene. Other 911 calls then started coming in.
As an account of the 56 residents then living at Lakeside Manor was conducted it was determined one individual was not there.
Members of the fire department then went through the black smoke, said Collins, and found the victim, Gene Gilland, curled up next to the window just inches away from fresh air.
An autopsy by the Ramsey County examiner determined the death to be a homicide due to the black color of his throat and lungs.
Collins also said the deputy fire marshal was on the scene and pinpointed the origin of the fire was in the dining room area – one of the places where the defendant was seen.
Video surveillance of the area also recorded the defendant leaving the dining area soon after the fire started, added Collins.
Collins said he is confident at the end of the trial the jury is going to find Peter Warren guilty based on the facts.
In his opening statement Joel Solie, the public defender representing Warren, said there is one very important element that must be considered.
No one has testified they ever saw Peter Warren start the fire.
The trial is scheduled to continue through this week and early next week.
Warren faces 40 years in jail if found guilty of second degree murder at the end of the trial.