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Arson investigator testifies at triple-murder trial

Investigators examine a Hickory Street, Central Islip house

Investigators examine a Hickory Street, Central Islip house where three bodies were found by crew responding to a fire. The two women and a man had been shot to death, one of them also strangled with an electrical cord, authorities say. (Aug. 11, 2009) Credit: James Carbone

The three people found dead in a backroom of a burned Central Islip house died before someone ignited gasoline splashed on the floor, an arson investigator testified Tuesday in Suffolk County Court.

Suffolk police Det. Paul Waldvogel said that after the bodies of Louis Calixto Jr., 19; his friend, Mykier Daniels, 28; and her sister, Katrice Daniels, 31, were moved, he could see "protected areas" where they had been. There was no fire debris or damage beneath them.

There was, however, an odor of gasoline in that room that intensified when the bodies were moved, Waldvogel said. He testified before Judge James Hudson at the trial of Hasan Vaughan and Thomas Singletary, both 36 and of Central Islip. They are charged with first-degree murder and arson.

During questioning by Assistant District Attorney John Cortes, Waldvogel said he believed the door to the room with the bodies was closed when the fire started. With gasoline, he said, "It's the vapors that actually burn. . . . There's a flash fire."

But in a closed room, the fire quickly runs out of oxygen and goes out, he said.

"That room had very little fire damage," he said. "That fire flashed, and then it went out."

Evidence of that, he said, is that the bodies were hardly burned and an upholstered chair in the room was undamaged.

The door to the room burned away and fell into the room, but Waldvogel said that was from the inferno in the hallway and living room, where the fire was most intense. In the living room, all that was left of one chair was its metal springs.

Because of the way gasoline vapors ignite, Waldvogel said, people who set such fires often get injured themselves.

"If they're within that vapor cloud, they get burned," he said.

Vaughan had burns over 60 percent of his body when he showed up later that day at a Brooklyn hospital. Singletary suffered burns as well.

The victims were shot, strangled and stabbed. Prosecutors say Vaughan recruited Singletary to help him get revenge after the victims stole money and a laptop computer from his house.

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