NASHUA, N.H. (AP) - On Sept. 28, 1998, a fire forced nine
residents out of a house and killed two dogs. The building was
gutted.
Four years later, it remains standing.
City officials have complained that the burned-out building is
an eyesore and safety hazard, and aldermen have asked city lawyers
to look into having it razed.
But a judge says no. He ruled last year that it might be needed
as evidence in an arson and insurance fraud trial.
Eileen Dowdle, 50, was convicted of arson, insurance fraud and
reckless conduct for the fire that destroyed her family's home. She
was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison, and she has been
jailed since March 30, 2000.
However, the state Supreme Court overturned her conviction last
month, and ordered a new trial. The court cited comments by a
prosecutor, who told jurors that Dowdle's lawyers were lying to
help her.
A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25 in Hillsborough County
Superior Court to determine whether Dowdle should be released on
bail, as she was pending her first trial.
The court has yet to appoint a new lawyer to represent her.
Dowdle's husband, Stephen Dowdle, remains convinced of her
innocence.
In a letter to The Telegraph last week, he wrote: "To this day,
I really don't know who's responsible for that fire. I do know that
at the time those alarms went off, she was in bed with me."
Prosecutors had asked Superior Court Judge Bernard Hampsey,
while Dowdle's appeal was pending, to consider allowing the house
to be torn down. At a hearing in June 2001, Hampsey suggested that
video and photographs of the building and scene might suffice as
evidence, and urged everyone involved to reach an agreement, court
records show.
Lawyers drafted an agreement on the subject, but Dowdle declined
to sign it, court records show.
As a result, Hampsey said the house "will not be demolished."
"Rather, it will be preserved in its present state in the event
that it is necessary for the court to conduct a second trial," he
said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)