---- — CONCORD (AP) — The New Hampshire man accused of setting a 1989 fire that killed a family of four is free after state prosecutors declined to retry him following a mistrial in December.
David McLeod, now 57, was charged in 2010 with four counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Carl and Lori Hina, their 4-month-old daughter, Lillian, and Carl Hina’s 12-year-old daughter, Sara. A judge declared a mistrial Dec. 19 when jurors failed to reach a verdict after two days of deliberations.
A new trial had been scheduled for April 14, but Attorney General Joseph Foster said yesterday it became clear after a review, which included juror interviews, that a different outcome after a second trial was highly unlikely.
“Therefore, after a thorough review, the decision has been made to forego the April 2014 retrial and avoid a double jeopardy issue,” Foster said in a statement.
The state can retry McLeod if new evidence or legal avenues develop.
McLeod’s lawyer said supporters were happy with the state’s decision.
“We have said from the beginning that David is innocent,” public defender Caroline Smith said. “We are all relieved that he has finally been released from the Cheshire County Corrections facility and can rejoin his family.”
She declined to say where McLeod was headed. He had moved to California after the fire and was living there with his family when he was arrested in 2010.
At trial, prosecutors said McLeod started talking about burning down the apartment house in Keene where his ex-girlfriend lived in the summer of 1988, threatened to torch it three weeks before the January 1989 fire and told three people that night he was going to do it.
While horrified residents gathered outside to watch their homes burn, McLeod was jubilant until he realized the Hinas had died, prosecutors said.
His lawyer countered that McLeod’s cruel statements didn’t prove his guilt. She said the case was thoroughly investigated in 1989 and that no evidence emerged to link him to the fire.
Though he was an early suspect, McLeod wasn’t arrested for more than two decades, in part because so many of the witnesses were drunk the night of the blaze or were initially uncooperative with authorities.