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Green Cove Springs Fla--State Drops Arson/Murder Charge

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  • Green Cove Springs Fla--State Drops Arson/Murder Charge

    State explains why it dropped arson death case

    By Nin-Hai Tseng
    Times-Union staff writer
    GREEN COVE SPRINGS -- Key elements that prompted the State Attorney's Office to dismiss a 6-year-old arson murder case against a Middleburg man focused on threats being inadmissable in court and arson evidence deemed insufficient.

    John Jock III, 53, was charged in 1999 with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Pamela Jock. It was two years earlier when his 48-year-old wife was found dead after a fire at their Middleburg home on Branan Field Road.

    On Tuesday, the state dropped all charges against Jock and closed the case. Jock was out of jail on bond.

    "We pursued everything physically and humanely possible," Assistant State Attorney Steve Siegel said yesterday. "It was a very thorough investigation."

    The state's strongest evidence against Jock was debris samples taken from the home's wooden floors, Siegel said. Lab tests determined flammable agents were present.

    However, the substances could have originated anywhere at anytime. Bug spray alone, Siegel said, is merely deodorized kerosene. And it was discovered the flooring was used previously in another home.

    "This is an old floor that's had a life of its own," Siegel said.

    Further, he said, the state's witness accounts from co-workers revealing Pamela Jock's fear of her husband was determined inadmissible for a jury to hear in trial. Friends had told investigators that days before Pamela Jock died, she disclosed to them her husband threatened to burn her to death in their home.

    The prosecution tried for two years to get the judge to allow the witnesses to testify, but he ultimately deemed it hearsay. Siegel said their testimonies could have showed John Jock's motives. However, the law generally does not allow the use of the victim's state of mind -- in this case, Pamela Jock's fear -- to prove the defendant's intent, he said.

    The defense also had its own arson experts, whose findings outweighed the state's, said L.E. Hutton, one of Jock's attorneys.

    Old electrical wiring in the home is strongly suspected as the cause, he said.

    "It's an absolute tragedy that has happened in his life," Hutton said.

    He said Jock tried to save his wife from the flames by extinguishing them with a garden hose. And when rescuers arrived, he was standing outside the home, barely clothed.

    Hutton declined to say where Jock currently resides but said he's still in Florida.

    Meanwhile, the closed case has left some of Pamela Jock's friends and co-workers at The Haskell Co. in Jacksonville disappointed. The couple was married for more than 20 years. It is unclear whether the relationship was abusive, but friends say it was troubled.

    Records do not indicate any calls to police from the home. But co-workers say before she died, she had moved some of her sentimental things to the Haskell building preparing to leave her husband.

    "I find it hard to believe they didn't have enough evidence," said former co-worker Lisa Ward. "There wasn't even going to be an investigation if it weren't for our calls and tips."

    Staff writer Nin-Hai Tseng can be reached at (904) 278-9487 or nin-hai.tsengjacksonville.com.
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  • #2
    The writing has been on the wall for a long time for fire investigators. The investigation must follow some scientific logic and must show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the fire was incendiary. Gone are the days where a positive lab sample alone is enough. There are many cases out there like this. Science and engineering have entered the field of fire investigation and have changed it for the better.

    I am not saying that this guy is not guilty. But it is the responsibilty of the public sector fire investigator to conduct an investigation that proves that the fire was set. It's no excuse that the resources may not exist, or the trained personnel are not there. I am glad that the DA had the integrity to drop this case before a public embarrassment of the public side ensued.


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