Guilty: Jury hands down verdict in Franklin Street arson fires

Published 10:09 pm Monday, May 3, 2010

A Suffolk jury convicted a 16-year-old on five of the eight charges stemming from an arson in June 2009 that destroyed three homes and five vehicles.

Kelly Golden Jr. was found guilty of arson of the homes at 120 Franklin St., 122/124 Franklin St. and 118 Franklin St., as well as the arson of two vehicles that were parked at 118 Franklin St. when the fire started around 5:30 p.m. on June 24. The jury absolved Golden, however, of the damage to two fire trucks and a Ford Focus whose owner got trapped by responding fire trucks and was forced to abandon her car.

According to testimony presented in court, Golden and three friends had been drinking when they met up at Golden’s home at 122 Franklin St. They went to the abandoned house at 120 Franklin St. and began setting things on fire inside the house.

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According to witness Alexander Barnes, Golden lit a bed sheet on fire and then put it out.

Golden himself told fire investigator Pam King three days later that “We was there, and I was lighting things off,” according to King’s testimony.

According to Capt. James Dickens of Suffolk Fire and Rescue, the fire originated in a rear corner on the first floor of 120 Franklin St. Tests on samples from the fire did not reveal the presence of ignitable liquids, Dickens said.

Even so, the blaze spread quickly, engulfing the house so rapidly that firefighters had to retreat soon after they arrived. A wall then collapsed onto the 122/124 Franklin St., where Golden lived. Soon after, the fire also jumped to 118 Franklin St., where two parents lived with their daughter, a dog and two cats. Both cats perished in the fire.

The fire also destroyed two vehicles that belonged to the family at 118 Franklin St., as well as a car whose owner was driving by and got trapped by responding fire trucks. In addition, the fire melted lights, hoses and other accessories on two fire trucks. Several firefighters also suffered burns from fighting the fire.

Golden’s defense attorney, Ed House, argued that Golden was not guilty, because he did not start the fire intentionally.

“Arson is an intentional act,” House said. “It was an accident. Arson is not an accident.”

House tried to compare the fire to a person who flicks a cigarette butt onto a wooden porch and burns down a house.

“That’s ridiculous,” House said. “What they’re trying to put on Kelly Golden is ridiculous.”

House even noted that Golden attempted to put out the fire.

“Last time I checked, somebody who tries to commit arson doesn’t try to put out the fire as soon as it’s started,” House said. “Let this young man go. Let him live his life.”

Prosecutor Jim Wiser argued, however, that Golden should have known his actions would bring about destruction.

“This is really a commonsense case,” he said.