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Boston and Beyond

November 30, 2013

Trial set to begin in 1989 NH blaze that killed 4

KEENE, N.H. (AP) — Nearly a quarter-century after a fire killed a Keene family of four, a man who was a longtime suspect is going to trial in their deaths.

David McLeod, 57, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree murder. He’s accused of igniting a blaze in a drug-fueled rage on Jan. 14, 1989, in the apartment building where his ex-girlfriend lived and killing Carl and Lori Hina, their 4-month-old daughter, Lillian, and Carl Hina’s 12-year-old daughter, Sara.

Though McLeod was an early suspect, he was not arrested for more than two decades, in part because so many of the witnesses were drunk the night of the blaze or were uncooperative with authorities during the initial probe. New Hampshire’s cold case unit picked up McLeod in 2010 in West Sacramento, Calif., where he had moved and raised a family.

“I think everyone is very relieved that it’s finally going to be resolved, and that would include the family of the victims and all the witnesses involved,” said lead prosecutor Janice Rundles.

McLeod’s lawyer, Caroline Smith, declined to comment.

Investigators say on the night of the fire, McLeod threatened to torch the building where his ex-girlfriend lived and afterward bragged about having set the blaze. Investigators say the fire started around 2 a.m. in the second-floor apartment of Sandra Walker, next to the Hina family’s unit and just above that of his ex-girlfriend, Wanda Ford.

One witness told police that McLeod was drunk, high on cocaine and angry that Ford was with other men who also lived in the eight-unit apartment house.

Ten days after the fire, authorities say, McLeod refused to take a lie detector test and left the state. At the time of his arrest, McLeod’s family said he left New Hampshire soon after the fire to pursue a job in Arizona. He later married and moved to California. Relatives say he worked in construction until he suffered a disability on the job.

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