Crime

Woman found guilty of murder and arson in deaths of two Kansas City firefighters

Thu Hong Nguyen was found guilty Monday of murder and arson in the deaths of Kansas City firefighters John Mesh and Larry Leggio.

The 46-year-old lit a fire amid flammable liquids in a storeroom of her nail salon and it destroyed a three-story building in the 2600 block of Independence Boulevard on Oct. 12, 2015.

Mesh and Leggio were among more than 100 firefighters sent to battle the three-alarm blaze. The two men were in an alley when the east wall of the building collapsed, burying them in bricks. Two other firefighters were seriously injured.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Joel P. Fahnestock found Nguyen guilty of two counts of murder in the second degree, arson in the first degree and two counts of assault in the second degree.

“On behalf of the Leggio family and the Kansas City Fire Department, we just want to extend our thank you to the prosecution team, the judge — all the hours the ATF and the attorneys have put into this case,” said Missy Leggio, Larry Leggio’s wife.

“It answers a lot of questions that we’ve all had deep down in our heart and has lifted a little bit of weight off our chest to where we can finally continue on with our healing process,” Missy Leggio continued outside the courtroom. “We still have a little bit of a way to go.”

Missy Leggio sat in the front row of the gallery throughout the week-long trial. Other Leggio and Mesh family members and fire department members also attended the trial.

“It’s been a long couple of years,” said Jim Mesh, John Mesh’s brother. “On behalf of the Mesh family we’d like to thank the prosecutor’s office and the ATF. We’re very happy with the verdict.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent a national response team to Kansas City to investigate the blaze.

“The ATF is extremely grateful to the Jackson County prosecutor’s office and their diligence in seeking justice in this case,” George Lauder, special agent in charge of the federal bureau in Kansas City, said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the Mesh and Leggio families.”

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said she also was pleased to see the families get some relief.

Fahnestock found Nguyen not guilty of one count of causing a catastrophe, which is defined as causing substantial damage to five or more residential dwellings. There were 16 apartments on the second and third floors of the building, over a ground floor of businesses.

Fahnestock did not explain why she found Nguyen not guilty on that count.

Nguyen was also found guilty of first-degree arson in a separate count for setting fire to a previous nail salon she operated in Lee’s Summit in 2013.

Sentencing was scheduled for Sept. 14. The arson and murder charges are punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

The prosecution painted a picture of Nguyen as someone who had a habit of burning her businesses for insurance money.

Nguyen listened to the trial with the help of interpreters who translated the proceedings into Vietnamese. She did not testify.

After the verdict, and before family members spoke, Nguyen was led out of the courthouse in handcuffs.

In the wake of the fire the Kansas City Fire Department adopted new policies to make sure firefighters get away from a burning building when a collapse zone has been declared.

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