PICKENS COUNTY — A former Easley businessman went on trial this week accused of murdering his wife by setting fire to a workshop at their Beverly Drive home in 2010.
Attorneys began the proceeding with opening arguments to a jury on Wednesday trying Donald Kinsela for the death of Cheryl Kinsela.
“This case is really about fire and lies,” 13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins told the jury. “You’re going to hear a lot about arson, and you’re going to learn a lot about how fires can be started. What you’re going to hear is enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the fire was intentionally set.”
The defense is arguing this was a horrific accident.
“On July 3, 2010 this family was devastated when a fire broke out,” Kinsela’s attorney, Druanne White, said. “At the conclusion of this case, the family of Cheryl, the family of Don and Don are going to be asking for a verdict which speaks the truth. The truth is he is not guilty.”
First responders flocked to the residence on July 3, finding a “dazed” Don Kinsela and his wife entrapped in a burning building. Statements from the defense say Kinsela was filling up his “brush cutter” with gasoline when fluids spilled on the floor and a fire ensued. White said Kinsela heard a “woosh” and immediately saw flames.
Cheryl Kinsela was behind the stairs in the structure when this occurred, according to attorneys.
Witnesses recalled what they saw that day.
“We received a call that there was a structure fire at 131 Beverly Drive. I was in the area responding to the location,” said former Easley Police Officer Jeremy Mills, who was one of the first responders to the scene. “When I arrived on scene, I saw thick smoke coming from behind the house. I went to the back of the house and saw that there was a building on fire and flames in the building.
“Mr. Kinsela was lying on the ground on his back with a garden hose in his hand,” Mills said. “I pulled him away from the building and asked him if he was OK. He seemed dazed, and the hair on forehead, arms and eyebrows was singed. He started telling me that his wife was inside and we needed to go in and get her.”
A nearly inaudible 911 call was also played for the court.
“My wife is dying,” Kinsela said on the frantic 911 call. “She is inside a fire.”
First responders stated Cheryl Kinsela was brought out of the building by Easley firefighters, where she was found not breathing and without a pulse. Cheryl Kinsela’s clothes were not burned.
Prosecutors say there will be proof that Kinsela is guilty.
“The state is not required to prove motive,” Wilkins said. “There’s no doubt, after you hear all the evidence in this case, that you will find the defendant, Don Kinsela, guilty of murder and arson.”
The defense argues that the investigation was flawed, and claims Kinsela’s innocence.
“You will hear from experts and they will tell you this is the sloppiest investigation they have ever seen,” White said. “At the end of this experts will say (the prosecutions) tests were invalid.”
Judge Leticia Verdin, who is hearing the case, has estimated a two-week time frame for full proceedings.