New Information in Three-Year-Old Fire That Killed Five College Students

“We’re appealing to everybody for cooperation and please come forward. That’s all I can do. Thank you,” Schlessman said. John Schlessman is the father of Alan who was celebrating his 21-st birthday the night he died along with four friends in a fire at his rooming-house on East 17th Avenue. The other victims were 21-year-old Kyle Raulin; 19-year-old Erin DeMarco; 19-year-old Christine Wilson; and 20-year-old Andrea Dennis. The two men attended O-S-U, while the three women went to Ohio University.

Three years later, detectives still believe arson was the cause of the fatal fire. The Columbus Unsolved Case Review Team has taken over the investigation and is working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the F-B-I’s Behavioral Analyst Unit. Unsolved Case Detective Rick Bisutti, said the person or people who set the fire are likely anxious at this time of year. “We’d have to believe that in the death of five individuals they’d have to have some type of remorse, or at least thinking of what happened that night. We also have to believe that if this was a prank, if the fire started out as a prank, and eventually it got out of hand, that that would also weigh heavy on somebody that was responsible for that,” Bisutti said.

Bisutti said his department is hoping this kind of stress will encourage that person or someone who knows the person to come forward.

The team also is seeking out people who left the party just before the fire was set around four a-m. Bisutti said they have spoken with several people from Boston who flew in for the weekend to visit a friend attending O-S-U.

“We believe that they were amongst the last of the partygoers to leave the residence. So that’s why they’re important,” Bisutti said.

Bisutti said four of those people have made statements while a fifth has not been very cooperative. He said since the interviews four have hired attorneys. The Unsolved Case Team is also using forensic and investigative techniques that were not available three years ago, but Bisutti refused to elaborate.

Central Ohio Crime Stoppers also announced a 100-thousand dollar reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the case. The reward is available for six months.

Several days after the fire police arrested a neighbor, Lucky Patterson. He was later released for insufficient evidence.

Schlessman said he and his family went to the house where Alan died. It has since been refurbished and houses new tenants. Tim Wilson, Christina’s father, chose not to go there on the anniversary.

“We’ve been there a number of times. Just to place flowers and say a prayer. And basically the same response. It’s the last place that these kids were happy, and living and alive,” Wilson said.

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