Page 28


APRIL 3, 2009 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15 is because once you apply your common sense, you can see that their theory is ridiculous. It’s bogus. … It wasn’t possible for it to happen the way they said. … This aerosol can stuff? Crap is what it is.” DeHaan says he hasn’t seen the ATF video. But he’s modified his position on aerosol cans. DeHaan tells the Observer that spray cans might be able to spread fire. He now says he’s seen it happen. “It’s a hypothesis you do have to consider. They can cook off during a fire. Depending on their contents and the fire conditions around them, they may or may not produce any fire spread. … If it ignites in a fire and shoots across the room, could it produce a trail of flaming liquid? The answer is yes!’ That would seem to contradict his testimony that helped send Severns to prison. But DeHaan stands by his contention that Severns is guilty of arson. The aerosol cans in Lone Star Guns couldn’t have spread the fire because they were trapped under the workbench, he says, pinned in by a drum of chemicals on either side. “So the question is, could they get out from under the workbench and get to where the other fires were, and the answer is no. “I will certainly accept the hypothesis that exploding aerosol cans can spread fire, but not in this case. They didn’t do it because of the physical constraints of the scene.” In DeHaan’s latest version, then, Severns’ guilt hangs on the exact location of a case of aerosol cans before the fire. The trouble is, there is no evidence that the cans were under the workbench. Before the trial, when Severns described the contents of his shop during an e-mail exchange with Hurst, he wrote that the cans were on top of a drum of chemicals next to the workbench. Answering questions from the Observer, Severns gave exactly the same scenario he provided Hurst three years ago: He brought the case of gun cleaner into the shop and placed it on top of the drum for his gunsmith to use. That’s where the cans remained until the fire, he says. They were out in the open and several feet off the ground. If so, by DeHaan’s own reasoning, the cans could have spread the fire. Asked why he believes the cans were under the bench, DeHaan says, “I believe that was the testimony of the guy who worked at that workbench. At least, that was the information we had.” There is no testimony in the trial transcript about the cans being under the bench. The gunsmith who was using the spray cans, James Darst, remembers Severns giving him a case of cans a day or two before the fire. He placed them on top of the barrel, he says. “The last time I saw them, they were sitting on top of that drum,” Darst told the Observer during a recent phone interview. “I remember that came up when the fire investigator was asking about it. That drum had a flat metal lid, and we were bad about setting stuff on top of if, just because it was an empty flat spot.” He says he never put the cans under the workbench. “The prosecution has created this myth that the cans were under the workbench!’ Hurst says. “But they’re not. This is a workbench, not a storage area. So no one is going to put These three frames are taken from a 1994 ATF training video. Experts in the Severns case say the video proves that aerosol cans can start fires across a room. In the first frame, a box of groceries on a hot plate has just begun to burn. In the second and third frames, two aerosol cans have exploded. At the bottom of ing flames. Meanwhile, flaming liquid from the aerosol cans has been tossed across the room and started small satellite fires on a chair and on the floor \(see entire video at .