A man accused of burning down a Prince George home and killing its owner in the process had said he wanted to set the building on fire three weeks before the blaze broke out, the court heard Monday during the first day of testimony for Frank William Edward Marion.
Marion, 50, faces charges of manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death and arson causing bodily harm in relation to the Jan. 7, 2012 fire at 2772 Merritt Road and the subsequent death of Jagdev Singh Jawanda, 85.
According to testimony from two tenants, Joseph Stoney and Tyler Robertson, who lived on the first floor, one below Marion in the three-storey home, they heard him yelling and screaming from above that he wanted to burn the house down on the evening of Dec. 11, 2011.
He then went downstairs and banged on the tenants' door. Worried he was in trouble, Stoney opened the door and Marion, saying someone was out to get him and insisting he needed to reach Jawanda's third-floor home through their suite, tried to push his way in.
While Robertson called police, Stoney closed the door on him.
Prince George RCMP Cst. Rene Brand testified she was called to the home at 7 p.m. about an hour after she had also encountered Marion at a nearby convenience store from where police received a call of a man refusing to leave.
She said Marion was cooperative, telling her he was trying to get cigarettes from passersby. Because he had a cane and appeared to have trouble walking, Brand gave him a ride home after he willingly got into the car. She could smell liquor but did not think he was intoxicated and found he was generally logical in his responses and his speech normal.
An hour later, Marion's condition was significantly different, Brand testified. His pupils were dilated, his talking was animated with his hands and a crack pipe was noticed on a table, leading Brand to believe Marion was on drugs.
"When he was speaking, he wasn't making any sense, and by that I mean he was saying that he was God and that he was talking to God and he was speaking in an even tone but it was almost as if he was kind of staring off into space," Brand said.
Marion also pointed to the couch and referred to his daughter but she was not there, the court was told. And he said he wanted to set the house on fire and wanted to hurt people.
"He just said it," Brand said. "He brought it up with the other statements that he made and he wanted to show us the gas can that he had."
Marion took her to a coat room and showed her a gas can, Brand said.
When they went back into the kitchen, Marion became agitated and violent, Brand said, waving his arms and saying he wanted kill himself before he was arrested under the Mental Health Act and taken to the Prince George RCMP detachment.
Marion was put in a padded "suicide suit" for his safety in cells and police waited until he had sobered up before talking to him, Brand said. Marion was not taken to hospital, the court was told.
The court also heard testimony related to the day of the fire, to which Prince George Fire Rescue was called at about 3 a.m.
In a search for occupants, Capt. Darren Hauck testified he found the oven door open in a second-floor kitchen with a 20-pound propane tank sitting inside. Worried it would potentially act as a bomb, Hauck said he carried it outside after determining the safety valve was not venting due to the heat.
And at 2:52 a.m., less than 10 minutes before firefighters were called to the home, Prince George RCMP Cst. James Della Torre testified he was called to the 400 block of Lansdowne Road in response to a complaint that a man was knocking on doors in the area.
Della Torre said he found Marion on Lansdowne near Ferry meeting the description of a man wearing a large hat and coat and carrying a duffel bag. Although he was mumbling, Marion showed Della Torre photo identification and then said he was going to wait for a cab at a nearby bus stop.
Della Torre said he kept an eye on Marion as he moved on and noticed he was limping. He then received notice that Marion was a "person of interest" because a fire had broke out at his home address.
By then a second RCMP member was on the scene and Marion willingly handed over the duffel bag for a search. When it was opened by the other member, Della Torre said he noticed the smell of gasoline and at 3:16 a.m., Marion was told he was being arrested.
Marion's mood quickly changed, Della Torre said, "like someone had flipped a switch."
Suddenly speaking in a Hispanic accent, in Della Torre's view like a gangster in a movie, Marion began swearing and threatening to kill the RCMP members. Marion also claimed he was the son of Elizabeth Taylor and that police had killed his father and generated a phony death certificate and later said his name was Carlos Amigo Taylor, the court heard.
The trial continues today.