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Jason Allen ROSE





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Arson
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: October 7, 2005
Date of arrest: 4 days after
Date of birth: 1986
Victims profile: Nicole Bingham, 21, a University of Kansas student majoring in history; Helen "Yolanda" Riddle, 33, a social worker; and Jose Gonzalez, 50, an electrician
Method of murder: Fire
Location: Douglas County, Kansas, USA
Status: Sentenced on June 18, 2007, to 10 years and two months in prison, the maximum sentence he could have received for three counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count of aggravated arson and seven counts of aggravated battery

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Rose gets 10-year sentence

Victims, their relatives question if punishment is adequate

June 19, 2007

Knowing that her brother lived his life with no regrets gives Maria Gonzalez and her family comfort when she thinks of the apartment fire that took his life.

It is that same thought that she hopes will ease her pain in the days following the sentencing of the man convicted of setting Boardwalk Apartments on fire in October 2005.

“He was my best friend,” Gonzalez said of her brother, Jose Gonzalez. “Even though we have to move on, it’s not something that we can overcome in a day.”

Jason Allen Rose, 21, was sentenced Monday to 10 years and two months in prison, the maximum sentence he could have received for three counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count of aggravated arson and seven counts of aggravated battery.

Rose’s prison term could have been much longer, but Kansas law does not allow a person charged and convicted of multiple crimes to serve more than double the sentence of the most serious offense.

“You take a look at the most serious charge,” District Attorney Charles Branson said, “and that becomes your primary charge for sentencing purposes.”

Emotional comments

Rose was convicted May 11 of setting the fire that killed Nicole Bingham, Yolanda Riddle and Jose Gonzalez and injured 17 people, but the jury stopped short of convicting him of first-degree murder.

Like other family and friends of the victims, Maria Gonzalez said she thinks the jury’s decision wasn’t harsh enough.

“I find no peace that his life meant nothing to you,” Maria Gonzalez said during a series of emotional statements made by her, then Nancy Bingham, mother of Nicole, and Leigh McHatton, who survived the blaze.

“(Jose) meant the world to me and my family,” Gonzalez said, trembling. “As for you, Jason Rose, may God forgive you for what you have done.”

McHatton also provided a statement.

“Our wounds and the wounds of our families are a constant reminder of what has taken place,” she said.

The Kansas University graduate suffered third-degree burns to her hands and feet and now lives in Denver, where she works as an advocate for people with disabilities.

No expression from Rose

Throughout the statements and the ruling made by District Judge Jack Murphy, Rose appeared vacant, expressing little emotion. He declined to make a statement as the hearing drew to a close.

A former foster child who had a troubled childhood, Rose had moved out on his own to Boardwalk Apartments just weeks before the fire was set at the apartment complex in the 500 block of Fireside Drive.

With time already served and the possibility of a 15 percent reduction in the sentence for good behavior, the time Rose will serve could be about eight or nine years, Branson said.

In his comments to Rose, Murphy wondered how the tragedy could have been lessened.

“While I’m not saying this to lessen your responsibility … I don’t recall one person say, ‘I heard a fire alarm or a smoke alarm,’” the judge said. “Likewise, there was one issue regarding the delay in response to the fire by the fire department. That question was unanswered (in the trial).”

Upon release from prison, Rose will undergo a three-year supervisory period. Following Rose’s departure from the courtroom, his attorney, Ron Evans, was busy signing paperwork to appeal.

Evans declined further comment.

A mother’s lament

Taking the stand to make her statement, Nancy Bingham told the judge she wanted everyone to know who Nicole really was. She read her thoughts from pages covered with her 22-year-old daughter’s pictures.

“I felt that the trial had the victims just as statistics; they weren’t really people,” she said.

During the trial, the only pictures jurors were permitted to see of the victims were of their charred remains.

“My daughter’s life was significant and I want you to know her,” said Bingham, who left the courtroom uncertain of the judge’s sentencing ruling.

“They got the maximum sentence that they could get,” she said. “Because I didn’t really have any expectations, I can’t really say that I was surprised. I think it makes sense that the judge would give him the maximum, just because of the severity of the damage.”

Telling others about Nicole gives Bingham some solace in coming to terms with her daughter’s death.

“Moms are supposed to protect their children and not let anything happen to them,” she said. “In reality, that is not always possible.”

In her final remarks, she spoke of a conversation she had with Nicole a year before the blaze.

“Mom, you can never die,” Nicole told her mother. “No, no. You can never die. I couldn’t take care of myself.”

Bingham paused, looking up from her notes.

“I don’t know if I can take care of myself, either,” Bingham told the court. “I would never want her to feel this.”


Convicted arsonist sentenced to 10 years

'I am frightened for us all,' apartment fire victim says

By Steve Fry - The Capital-Journal

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

LAWRENCE — Burn victim Leigh McHatton's hands shook Monday as she told a Douglas County District Court judge the horrific impact the Boardwalk Apartments fire had on her.

McHatton, now 26, ran through fire to escape the Oct. 7, 2005, inferno that killed three neighbors, injured more than seven others and destroyed the three-story apartment building. She spoke during the sentencing of Jason Rose, 21, who was convicted of three counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count of aggravated arson and seven counts of aggravated battery linked to injuries suffered by people caught in the fire that destroyed the Boardwalk Apartments, a 76-unit building at 510-524 Fireside in northwest Lawrence.

Rose was sentenced to the maximum term of 10 years and two months in prison Monday, receiving five years and one month for the arson conviction and a total of five years and one month for convictions on three counts of manslaughter and seven counts of aggravated battery.

Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said Kansas law allows only the doubling of the primary offense carrying the longest sentence, which in the Rose case was the aggravated arson count.

Before Rose was sentenced, McHatton told District Judge Jack Murphy that for some survivors, the fire's consequences wouldn't end with Rose's sentencing, that the nightmares and sleepless nights would continue. McHatton, a University of Kansas arts major in 2005, now lives in Denver.

She disagreed with the verdicts of Douglas County jurors, who convicted Rose of the arson charge but found him guilty of the manslaughter charges rather than the more serious felony first-degree murder charges. The manslaughter convictions carried a 32-month term for each conviction, while the murder convictions would have carried a sentence of 20 years to life for each.

"I am frightened for Jason Rose, and I am frightened for us all," McHatton said. Life deserves to be protected, she said.

McHatton awakened Oct. 7, 2005, in her second-story apartment, opened her door and found her porch and railing on fire. At the top of the stairwell, she covered her face with a blanket, then ran down the steps, tripped on the stairs, rolled to the bottom and rolled to extinguish the flames burning her.

McHatton was airlifted to The University of Kansas Hospital, where she underwent skin grafts for burns on her face, hands and feet, then physical therapy.

Killed in the fire were Nicole Bingham, 21, a University of Kansas student majoring in history; Helen "Yolanda" Riddle, 33, a social worker; and Jose Gonzalez, 50, an electrician.

Maria Gonzalez told Murphy that her brother, Jose Gonzalez, "meant the world to me and my family. As for you, Jason Rose, may God forgive you for what you've done."

Nancy Bingham, of Wichita, spoke about the loss of her daughter, Nicole.

"Her life is significant, and I want you to know her," the mother told Murphy. Nicole Bingham overcame a heart problem and surgery, the threat of dying at any time due to another heart problem and the usual ups and downs of a teen. She also was loyal to her friends and lived her life with passion, her mother said.

"Nicole, I love you so much," her mother ended.

Assistant district attorney David Melton asked Murphy to sentence Rose to consecutive terms.

"The consequences of his actions will be felt for lifetimes," Melton said.

Ron Evans, the assistant public defender representing Rose, sought concurrent sentences, which would have resulted in a sentence of five years and one month.

In sentencing Rose, Murphy told him his actions were "willful and wanton," affecting dozens of people. Murphy also praised several young Haskell University students who saved lives by waking sleeping Boardwalk residents.

The judge questioned the delay of the Lawrence Fire Department in responding to the blaze and noted that not one witness was awakened by smoke alarms during the fire. The closest fire station is about six blocks southwest of the apartment complex.

Rose, who has served 614 days in jail already and is eligible to receive up to 15 percent good time off his sentence, could be released in another seven years.



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