Fire Starter: John Leonard Orr


The shocking story of arson investigator John Leonard or began back in Nineteen eighty-four a fire in Pasadena California hardware. The store killed four people including a two year old child arson. Investigators examined the ruins and determined that the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction. All except for John or he was convinced that the cause was arson. Join US at the quiet end today. For the case of a fire captain and arson investigator John or with nearly two thousand suspicious fires over the next seven years a task force was formed to find serial arsonists. The task force called themselves. The pillow pyro task force and their methods of investigation. Were both fascinating and effective diff- so it should be a great talk today and this case was recommended to us by Cindy. Well Cindy's recommended a few cases for us. She's One of our most avid listeners. So we always like to hear from her okay so we have a California beer. I've never picked on. I'm from this brewery before I can't imagine my favorite brewers have haven't chosen anyway. This is from Sierra Nevada brewing company. It celebration fresh fresh hop. I P A Sierra Nevada brewing is in Chico California celebrations in American Ip with a six point eight percent Ab Victor. Nice beer are Jamba colour. Little Bit ahead some pretty lace kind of a spicy aroma. peppery aroma. Some sweet mall little bit of hops. And that's exactly how it tastes. He started out with the CARAMEL. Little Spicy peppery Steph and then hops at the end and it's a nice beer. It's not terribly happy. Not One of those hot bombs that are GONNA kill you. I think you to enjoy it all right. Well let's open it up okay so I was really surprised. This is your first Sierra Nevada. Ah Let's take it down to the quiet end. I don't know how I've missed Sierra Nevada. Anyway I had a ton of Beers from that company so if we have other California cases you'll probably more of them great so until the case this is a just a fascinating case to me. It really yes yes. Yeah so by John. Moore's own description. His childhood growing up in the nineteen fifties was a happy one. He lived in a two bedroom middle-class home home behind his grandparents house. He had two older brothers who moved away when John was a teenager. Went to join the navy and the other start his own family Alan China's sixteen his mother left him and his father alone with no explanation. She just took off one day. She called after few days but John didn't see her again for three years and she had moved back to her hometown of Missouri and she never did reconcile John's father. That's kind of a strange thing to happen when you're a teen share I'm sure it was pretty weird and a little disheartening for him. Definitely one Sunday. She's there the next day she's not and no real explanation. Though in nineteen sixty seven John. Join the airforce. After he completed basic training training he was in jet mechanics training then he transferred to firefighting school. He had wanted to be a firefighter for some time. So he's happy to learn. Learn how to operate the equipment as he put out training fires yet. He married his high school girlfriend. Jodi in nineteen sixty eight and they were shipped off to an air air force base in Spain which was near Commercial Airport and they were there for two years but John was kind of bored. He only got to respond to to air-crashes during that time and he really wanted to be more in on the action. When John was transferred to great falls Montana he fought only one fire then when he he was twenty two he was honorably discharged at this time? Jodi was pregnant with their first child. John was insecure and he came across as a bit of a Bragar in order to compensate for this he really wanted to become a policeman or a firefighter. The Los Angeles Police Department invited him to test for position mission and he passed the written tests the medical exam and the fitness test but he failed the psychological test. He was sent a letter telling him that he he was unsuitable. So this was a big thing for him. He had wanted to be a policeman very badly. Your that was his main goal to be a cop. Yeah so this'll be pointed back to. As a really huge disappointment mitch merely might have had an effect on who he became as a man or your. I think you could look at it. That we could also look at it as there is something in his psychological makeup that made him on high rable. Oh sure yeah I think it went both ways after getting past feeling hurt. He was very angry. The rejection letter suggested that he consult another psychologist so so he hired one that he found in the yellow pages. This psychologist didn't evaluation and found him suitable but remember. This is the person he was paying but now he had a second opinion so he took that back to the LAPD psychologist for an appeal of that decision. You know the LAPD psychologist couldn't couldn't tell John Anything specific about why he had been rejected other than the say that he might have been too passive. Police officers needed to be assertive but then the psychologist left John Alone in his office with the file. He said I'm going to go out and get a cup of coffee. I think he kind of intentionally left the father so John read the file and so that one of his co workers had been interviewed and told the psychologist that John was laid to work lazy and resentful eventful of another man being promoted over him so I can't see any other way that this happened. Then the psychologist was really giving him an opportunity to look at his file. Were were absolutely the final evaluation stated that John Needed a few years to mature. And then maybe he could reapply to the force now. John Though would never admit to seeing his diagnosis in that file but he had actually been diagnosed with a personality trait disturbance and emotionally unstable personality. His former supervisors had described him as both irresponsible and immature as well. So this time John was working for Sparkletts marklets bottled water company. He quit that job and entered the management program at a fast food restaurant. It was nineteen seventy three and John was going going from one fast food job to another before he quit and he applied next to the Los Angeles Fire Department. He was couldn't be a policeman. He can be a fireman. Yeah I think it was as backup plan. And he was really thrilled when he was accepted to the academy for training but it turns out he was out of shape and he wasn't up to the rigors of the academy physically. He was told that he'd also done poorly on the written test so he was just given the option to resign or he. It's going to be fired so he was very angry and upset when this happened. Yeah and part of his problem was probably his attitude his after all had been a firefighter for four years in air force so he felt like he didn't need to study your practice now his time in the air force vote. He's half a couple fires Chris couple crashes and he. It didn't have much training. But he thought he did. So he didn't participate in study sessions with other recruits and he hadn't practice handling the heavy ladders and equipment and they were heavy. These big wooden ladders. He apparently in the service they had the light aluminum ladders. So this was a whole all different ballgame per handed so after that failure John was absolutely despondent and by this time he had two young daughters and his marriage was on the rocks. That's when he applied to the Glendale Fire Department and they accepted him in their fire academy in the spring of seventy four. He completed eight weeks of training and he graduated with twelve other guys. He was starting his career as a firefighter and he was super happy about it. Even though the Pay Glendale was a lot at less than it would have been at the L. A. P. D. or the L. A. F. D. wasn't it Glendale lowest paying in the state or something like that at the the time it was. Yeah maybe that's why I got hired. Nobody wanted to work for them. I'm sure that was part of it. Because he really wasn't. The top of the picks no her psychological report from earlier says a lot doesn't it it really does and also at home things weren't improving. He was really bored on his days off so he ended up taking a part time job at a seven eleven as a clerk then he bought himself pickup truck and went on camping and in hunting trips on his own without his family he ended up befriending a woman at the seven eleven and other employees who is also unhappy in her marriage and the two of them decided to be roommates leave their spouses and apparently this was Not a sexual thing at all it was just a friendship allegedly anyway yes so. John left his wife Jodi leaving her just note as an explanation for what is doing a lot like what his mother did. He pay child support and he also began taking classes in fire science in police science. John believed that. The police didn't show enough respect for firefighters fighters and he examined the conflicts between the two groups and a writing assignment is still working at the seven eleven and he used what he was learning to help him spot shoplifters in the store yeah he got really into that his boss at the seven eleven was impressed at how good he got at catching shoplifters John would would watch kids who came into the store after school and he catch them making them empty their pockets and return things so this was a big thing for John. I mean to the point of weirdness really yeah very weird when example in nineteen seventy six. While he was out shopping he saw men running toward a car with his arms full of suits from Montgomery wards store so John or chased. The man knocked him down and helped the store security guard hold the man until the police arrived yet. He and he was clearly thrilled with this moment. He talked to the security guards and he actually asked them if he could get a part time job working in mall security but the mall said they only hired off-duty policeman and not firefighters. So there's another bruise to his ego. That's right he's already been told his second class this anyway. Because he's a Fire Department Dinata Police Department guy. Yeah and I don't know if that's really a thing but he definitely saw that way. He saw a lot of things in a slightly slightly off center. Way That's true he did. He wasn't quite right. We know that so. John was disappointed that he couldn't get a mall. Security John but that didn't deter them from doing other good deeds the same day. He saw an older man. Shoplifting hand tools. He told the cashier got the man arrested. So he asked at the sears store about getting a part time job with security

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