Thursday, March 27, 2014

Baxter Talks About Holiday Inn Arson Case



Todd Baxter ~~The  Holiday Inn arson is the one case he really wanted to solve.

He describes it as: "The largest murder case in Monroe County history."

Greece Police Chief Todd BaxterWatch Video

Baxter told 13WHAM news*: "Baxter said when it comes to unfinished business, he does wish he could have provided answers to the families of the ten people killed in the 1978 Holiday Inn fire in Greece.

He hoped to meet them in person and give them answers about how the fire started and who started it. But he said the investigation will continue after he leaves the department. The two lead detectives on the case, Casey Voelkl and Pat Welch, will keep working and going through evidence.

The detectives have re-interviewed many people, but have not yet questioned Bud Phillips, the Greece-Ridge Fire Chief, who was first on the scene of that fire back in 1978 and called 911 to report it.

Baxter said in any arson investigation, it is routine to focus on people who are first on the scene of a fire.

Phillips was questioned in 1978 and Baxter said he will be interviewed again, but not until investigators go through evidence seized during a search of Phillips’ office at the fire hall back in the fall.

Chief Harold “Bud” Phillips was a Lieutenant with the Greece-Ridge Fire Department in 1978. He told investigators he was driving down West Ridge Road to his job as a security guard, when he saw the smoke. Phillips said he called in the fire and then told 13WHAM he helped people escape from the burning hotel.

Phillips told 13WHAM News during previous interviews that he had nothing to do with starting the fire and he maintains to this day that the fire was not arson.

Phillips declined to be interviewed Thursday.

“I am not alone in my feeling that this fire was not intentionally set, but rather a very unfortunate accidental fire that occurred thirty-five years ago,” Phillips said in a statement.

Chief Baxter said testing by the ATF and other members of law enforcement proved the fire was arson.

Chief Baxter called the case a homicide and said he still hopes there will be an arrest so families know who caused the fire.

“An arrest? Oh yes, that’s our grand slam. An arrest for the murder of ten people, I believe the largest murder ever in Monroe County. Absolutely. You want justice, that’s what we’re here for,” Baxter said."

* Bold added by SCATS

SCATS ~~ Well Mr. Phillips, please name three other unbiased observers who believe as you do? I'm betting you can't.
 
 

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

You can count me as one of those 3 or more with personal knowledge of the facts developed during the investigation at that time.
Regarding Baxter's claim regarding " evidence" seized from the suspects office, I find that claim to be ambiguous at best.
In order to do that search, they would have needed a search warrant signed by a judge. In order to accomplish this it would be necessary to convince the judge that the suspect was a viable suspect .The argument could be made that the suspect had the opportunity due the circumstances of his involvement that night. What they lack are two other elements,motive and means. They must tell him what they were looking for and where the expected to find it. Obviously the judge was convinced but would have issued a narrow search warrant restricted to that particular information and location. Reports indicated that they seized records from his office which was no doubt the target of the warrent.
It is my guess that what they were looking for was the unusual purchase of a chemical substance not normally used in during fire fighting as well as other suspicious fires that involved the suspect' . The latter would be considered as circumstantial evidence in any investigation. I believe that's what they were hoping to develope as a result of this search was motive and means.
If this was the case, by this time, the two men assigned should have uncovered that and would be able to build a case against the suspect which I believe they still are not able to do otherwise why interview people that were interviewed 35 yrs ago if they are still available and lucid.
Another thing we can count on is the fact that our new chief will vigorously purse this investigation due to the involvement of his dad who originally declared this a arson and homicide.

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SCATS said...

To 10:50AM ~~ Oh please! You market yourself as an "insider" but can't even imagine a motive!!

From my own personal research, I've found it is not at all uncommon for a firefighter to become an arsonist. It allows them to be a hero by being "first on the scene" and/or "first to report" the fires they set. They have ego issues, suffer from "hero syndrome", etc. Google it ;)

Anonymous said...

No marketing here at all. just someone with hands on experience with this investigation. I guess that would qualify me as an "insider" who just happens to know more about this incident than you will ever know .
Forget your research. It has been my personal experience to be involved with individuals that you describe as fire bugs who were volunteers who set fires in abandoned barns in Greece just so they can respond to a fire. Heroism was not their motives in those instances. Just a warped mindset of adults who never got over their fascinations with matches and their excitement over fire.
So please, Don't lecture me about a topic you have no first hand knowledge about unless you were apart of the initial 20 man task force working around the clock for 10 days immediately after the fire, that was not able to come up with any evidence of arson and as a result , and obviously,failed to develop an alleged suspect.
Regarding my first comment, I find it hard to believe that two officers who may have not yet seen the light of day are going to be successful 35 yrs later. But then again , who knows . Anything is possible, I suppose.

SCATS said...

To 2:30PM ~~ No thanks, I will NEVER "forget my research." Looking at the FACTS and seeing the POSSIBILITIES without wearing the blinders of a supposed "insider" (you can't or won't prove it so your word is really worth no more than mine, right?) shows me there are reasons why our PERSON OF INTEREST ... i.e. Bud Phillips is the PRIME SUSPECT that you attempt to ignore with your "failed to develop an alleged suspect" drivel. Perhaps your memory isn't as clear as it ought be.

Anonymous said...

It is entirely possible the search warrant is not related to the Holiday Inn fire, but other crimes. Just a thought

SCATS said...

Very true, 4:26PM.

BTW 2:30PM ... here's a comment left on Facebook you should remember: "The Holiday Inn fire was publicly declared an arson on Nov 30, 1978. This determination was made by an investigative team comprising police, fire investigators from Monroe County, Onandaga County and New York City, and laboratory technicians from Monroe County. It's all in the news clippings from the time."

Anonymous said...

1050 and 230
Methinks Bud is posting here! Strokes do cause this type of speech and language.
Those of us who fought that fire and others around that time suspected him from the outset. Talk to the ex!!! Too many calls by a volunteer... who then turned probie, was always first on, and wanted to be recognized.
Next, interview the high school girls he was chasing, what he did with them, and what the ex found out!

Anonymous said...

Scats there is nothing wrong with my memory, It is reinforced by the notes I took and retained from the investigation of which I was a part of. And no I do not remember that Face Book Post. However, I do remember what outside agencies were called in to help as the PD did not have a trained arson investigator .The first assets that was called in was the City if Rochester Arson squad.
After discovering the point of origin, they attempted to find a burn pattern in the vicinity leading away from the point of origin which would be detectable on the freshly waxed floor and stair case, None was found as well as evidence of a possible accelerant . After several hours, they concluded that this was a naturally occurring fire. Of course their findings were immediately dismissed by Chief Phelan who, moments after his arrival on the scene and long before the experts arrived on the scene.declared the fire an arson.
I also remember after the failed ten day extensive investigation by the department task force, 18 consecutive hours of questioning of Phillips by two alternating teams of four detectives, turned up no evidence to support the arson theory, the frustration of both Riley and Phelan,boiled over. Riley made a call to a retired arson investigator from the NYPD, who for a fee, agreed to come here and was flown here and picked up at the airport by Riley himself. This happened over 2 wks after the fire.
After an inspection of a severely compromised alledged crime scene, he delivered the findings he was paid to make. Arson by a rare accelerant that leaves no detectable residue once burned. Rediculous! So how was he able to detect that element ? I m sure such an element exists or he couldn't have made that claim.This is a tactic that reads like thisIF YOU CANT DAZZEL THEM WITH YOUR BRILLIANCE, BAFFLE THEM WITH YOUR BS
So based on his findings, I wonder what material the Monroe county crime lab had to work with.perhaps
. you do. Did the Facebook comment make mention of that?
.One last point. If the reported news accounts are accurate , and your theory of the motive based on Google, The PD now has enough evidence, albeit circumstantial to make a case against Phillips. Opportunity. he was at the scene, means because of his Hazmat training, he might have access to the physical evidence, Motive by applying the Hero syndrome, their exists enough for the DA to bring it to the Grand Jury for an indictment. So why haven't they done so. I believe I know why.

SCATS said...

To 5:59PM ~~ I'd bet my children that BP reads SCATS BLOG ;)

To 7:01PM ~~ I didn't ask if you remembered the FB post. I was asking you to recall the FACTS it contained.

I've read MANY, MANY news articles from right after the fire. I've followed the press coverage since Baxter began his task force. I'm not sure anyone called the potential accelerant "rare" ... ever. I do recall that it leaves no detectable residue AS PER THE ABILITY TO TEST IT IN 1978. Today is a different story.

I also recall that the suspicion an accelerant was involved had to do with burn patterns determined by variances in the temperature the fire burned at the point of origin of the fire vs. other areas. Bottom line: the accelerant burned at a higher temp, no BS intended.

At this point, it appears to me that you are calling Baxter a liar given his statements to TV reporters yesterday: "Chief Baxter said testing by the ATF and other members of law enforcement proved the fire was arson."

Yes, I suspect there very well may be enough evidence now to bring charges and an arrest, BUT you must realize Baxter's thinking. He wanted a "grand slam" which means he wanted ALL his ducks in a row before going that route. Perhaps a string or two still dangles, making this less than a "grand slam" in his mind. Maybe Phelan will see it differently. My suspicion is Phelan will shutdown the task force. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

The new chief may shut down the task force but only if the money stops being directed to it. That directive would have to come from the new supervisor. Why would he want to stop the investigation? Going back to 1978. Why would Riley push for an arson finding? What would be his motivation? Was Riley even the supervisor then?
And do pyro/heroes usually expect casualties? Maybe it was an arson that got out of hand. Maybe there was no accelerant . Just a set fire. And some other factors caused it to go out of control before someone could call it in and start to rescue people.

Anonymous said...

Baxter just told the press what they wanted to hear. What does he care at this point, it's not his problem any more.
I disagree with you when you claim that the new chief will shut down the TWO man Task Force. Why would he after expending a considerable amount of resources and money and they are that close to making a case that will stand up in a court of law according previous statements by Baxter.
Secondly, his fathers reputation regarding his proclamation 35 yrs ago that it was arson and Phillips was the prime person of interest( suspect actually). I believe just the opposite as if it is as you claim, it's a simple matter connecting those strings stands in the way, why quit now, I believe he will press on even harder onthis is the case.

Anonymous said...

in my opinion, he should shut it down. Even if was arson, they will never be able to make the charge against Phillips
This case is as cold as it gets. So why waste more time and money beating a dead horse.The only way they will ever know if this guy started the fire is if he makes a so called Death Bed Confession.

SCATS said...

To 7:47AM ~~ Re: " Why would he want to stop the investigation?" Because those man-hours could be used resolving crimes in the "now" of course.

Re: "And do pyro/heroes usually expect casualties?" What they expect is more about THEIR role as "the hero" who RESOLVES the desperate situation they created - "... there are no formal scientific studies on the hero syndrome." (Wikipedia)

To 9:46AM ~~ I think Baxter told the press what the Holiday Inn survivors wanted to hear. I agree, it's not his problem now. As for how "close" they are in solving the case, I'm no longer buying it! They have had MONTHS to sort through what they took with the warrant & haven't even finished the inventory on the goods yet! Not to mention Baxter told us long ago the case just needed that "one last test" before going to the DA. Well, what happened with that?

Let's not forget he also promised us " a break" was coming in the Milgate murder too. I think Baxter was tooting his own horn, trying to spook whoever he believes is the perp.

To 9:56AM ~~ At this point in time, Baxter has muddied the message. I don't think we really know if it's a dead horse ... or not ... at this point in time. For the sake of the survivor's families, where things stand should be made crystal clear. They deserve it.

Anonymous said...

7:47 It boils down to one word LIABILITY. Because shortly before the fire, the town Fire Martial renewed the establishments CofO even though some violation were noted at the time and assurances by management to take immediate action to remedy them. After the fire, some serious ones still had not been fixed.This had the implication for the town to held negligent in contributing to the outcome. Therefore it was paramount that this fire had to be set and not an accidental occurring event. And yes Riley was supervisor at the time. In an accidental fire, the town could have been on the hook for wrongful death suits far exceeding the amount covered by insurance policies covering the town in such actions.

Anonymous said...

To 7:01pm ~ You might want to double check your personal notes, because it sounds like your memory is failing you. Either that, or you're trying to throw people off the scent with your wild insinuations. According to local news clippings from the time, active (not retired) NYC Fire Marshal John Stickevers was called in by the Monroe County D.A.'s Office (not Don Riley) on November 27, 1978 (not two weeks after the fire) to help determine the fire's cause. He was present at Phelan's press conference on December 1 when he first declared the fire to be an arson, and is credited with finding evidence of an accelerant at the scene. Stickevers returned to NYC shortly afterwards, while other fire investigators from Onandaga County stayed on to keep helping the investigation. Bill Kirchgessner, Monroe County Public Safety Laboratory, conducted tests of materials/samples from the fire scene. The discovery of MEK was reported in the press as early as mid-December 1978.

To 1:09pm ~ It is stupid to suggest that the Town of Greece conspired to mislabel the Holiday Inn fire an arson to escape liability. Several of the victims families DID in fact sue the town for negligence, for allowing an unsafe hotel to operate. But these suits were completely dismissed under New York law, which held that the town owed only a general duty to the public but not a specific duty to individual guests (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean). Ironically enough, the same laws allowed the Holiday Inn and its insurers to recover some of their losses/payouts to victims from the Town of Greece. Whether they ever did, I didn't bother to find out.

Anonymous said...

Apparently you are one those who believe everything you read in the papers are factual. the press and other news outlets can only print or report what official reports made by officials at that time are given to them. They are not always representative of the truth as back then news releases were carefully managed to represent their point if view.
You mention the findings of the chemical compound MEK st the scene. In fact it was. As I recall, the city arson investigators discovered its presence as it was one of the compounds that were stored , along with

other combustibles, in the storage room, the origin of the fire. That's what figured into their determination that the fire resulted in the spontaneous combination of MEK fumes which are highly combustibles with a very low flash point, with fumes of other cleaning supplies with similar combustible properties , also located in that room.
This solvent was used by employees as a wax stripper on floors in the hallways and other well traveled areas of the building, before floors were rewaxed.
So as far as other agencies making the same find, its no surprise to me. And since MEK is water soluble, water, say from water hoses, would spread it quite a distance from it's storage location.
If the current ongoing investigation is based on the presence of this chemical as the substance that an alleged arsonist used, then by all means, shut down this investigation if this be the case, as they going no where if this us all they have to go on.

SCATS said...

To 11:22AM ~~ I'm sure it's not all they have. And I'm also sure that anyone who watches the interviews of Phillips gets that creepy unsettled feeling when he suddenly decides to answer no more questions. I've yet to see him ever show any sympathy towards the survivors or to refer to that fire as awful.

Buck Russell said...

I guess I am not sure why someone who has been called a person of interest would even comment on this event? I think that they would want to stay out of the lime light..

SCATS said...

To 12:55PM ~~ It's called "hero syndrome."

Anonymous said...

How can you be sure of that? What really bothers me about most of comments on this site on this topic is the fact that some of you have portrayed an attitude of being judge, jury and executioner of Mr Phillips without the presence of any evidence that is offered as proof of his guilt. Just a lot of speculation and rumors, nothing more You are even talking like you can see his quilt when being interviewed about the subject, Amazing to say the least.
The fact is, right from the get go, Phillips was a suspect in the mind of one person at the scene that night, the Chief of Police. As a result,we were told to find evidence to make it so. Didn't happen then. And by the way, he held up very well during that unlawful 18 hour grilling of a "Person with Knowledge " or PK
Back then . That term has changed to person of interest to avoid a potential suspect to think he was a suspect at which time , if he asked if he was a suspect, the investigators would have say so at which time, he would have the right to ask for an attorney. If he did, the interview was over. As I saw it then and still do. The only mistake made by Phillips that at no time did he ask that question during that unlawful interrogation .

Anonymous said...

It has been mentioned several times on this site on this topic, that Phelan quickly insisted that Bud was to be considered a suspect even before the fire was put out. So far, no one has asked why this happened.The guys on the PD. All knew.why. It was up close and personal as I recall.and mostly personal and there existed bad blood between them as it involved a member of Bud' s family that led to a confrontation between Phillips and Phelan long before the fire took place.

SCATS said...

To 2:14PM ~~ Like they say, if the shoe fits ... in this case, it looks like a great fit. As for speculation & rumors, isn't that what YOU just used to make your point - "Phillips was a suspect in the mind of one person at the scene that night, the Chief of Police"??

To 3:07PM ~~ BEFORE the fire was out? I must have missed that.

Regardless any "bad blood" etc. BP does not behave like he's innocent when asked questions about this topic. As I said before, I've yet to hear even a word of sympathy or anything to suggest he thought that fire was tragic. But I have heard lots of statements starting with the word "I" from him.

Anonymous said...

Scats you missed it because you obviously were not in the make shift command center when he declared it was arson when he was informed of Bud's involvement in the fire and the order went out to find evidence to prove his involvement before the smoke had settled. Ask yourself why? Why such a hasty reaction to a tragic scene where
Remains of the victims were still being recovered. I think even you can read between the lines of a probable irrational personally biased motivation based on his dislike regarding
Phillips because a personal conflict that existed between them. Unfortunately, Phelan was prone to these kinds of outbursts involving anyone who dared challenge him at the hight of his power in this town.

SCATS said...

To 7:20AM ~~ Yup, I wasn't in the "make shift command center." I asked myself why. The answer is, I wasn't born yet!

Anonymous said...

Weren't born yet?? To have so many opinions and knowledge and bold statements I thought for sure you were there that night. Now I'm going to have to back to believing everything I read in the newspaper.

Anonymous said...

HA HA HA. DONT YOU WISH?

Anonymous said...

Or what the fire and pd personnel there reported and witnessed!

Anonymous said...

To 11:22am, 2:14pm, 3:07pm and 7:20am (presumably the same anonymous poster)

Since you have so much first-hand knowledge of events and were present in the command center, have you been providing your information to the Greece Police Task Force and/or Monroe County Distruct Attorney so they can conduct an honest cold-case investigation? Or are you simply trolling blogs like this one, trying to plant the seeds of reasonable doubt, just in case...?

SCATS said...

Touche, 8:27PM ;)

Anonymous said...

8:27. They have all of that information as it is part of the reams investigative reports generated by our investigation that took place 35 years ago by our investigation ,
Of course what they don't have and never will is what conversations actually took place behind the scenes by those in charge at the time. Obviuosly those comments and directions are not part of the official record. In order to know this, one must be there to hear it or you would have to have been to be a "Fly"on the wall, so to speak . You would be wise to remember a couple of things here, things are not always what they are portrayed to be, especially in Greece. Secondly, it is foolish to comment on things you have no idea what you are talking about like actual facts.




SCATS said...

To 5:19AM ~~ You ASSUME they have all of that info, because you don't really know!

Something YOU forget is that with time, YOUR memory of things is very likely NOT as accurate as you believe it to be 35 years later ;)

Anonymous said...

This will be my last comment on this subject
I am not assuming that at all. Inorder for these new Kids doing the new investigation to knew what happened, they would have to rely on the Department official file on this investigation which contains every bit of information that was developed by the original " TASK FORCE" at the time immediately after the incident.

Regarding my memory there is nothing wrong with it
as I still have images permanently burned into my mind by the trauma caused by the the horror of what I witnessed that evening . Besides, my personal observation during this whole incident , are contained in my personal notes of what actually took place and was said during the course if this investigation .
I can see that I have tried and failed to pass on to readers of this site a different perspective concerning this topic A factual account of this tragic incident. Unfortunately people on this site choose to believe the line projected on this site and what they want to believe. Knock yourselves out!!

Anonymous said...

To 5:19 am ~ Actually my point is that if YOU possess information that is not in the official record and that is relevant to the current investigation, then YOU should speak with the police and/or D.A. about it. Have YOU actually spoken to them about it? If not, pick up the phone and call them.

SCATS said...

To 10:37AM ~~ You are STILL ASSUMING regarding what info the Task Force possesses! Have you forgotten about the Rahn years, where evidence was improperly stored, improperly filed, often times ruined or lost??? I haven't ;)

What I choose to believe is what I've read from news clippings at the time, plus input from some of the survivors, their families and others who were around at that time. Using my own sense of logic, plus what I've learned about how this place operates has shown me that it is RARE that any ONE PERSON (such as yourself) ever has the complete picture.

To 11:47AM ~~ See what I just wrote, because 5:19AM really does NOT know how much of what he knows/possesses is in the PD's files.

Anonymous said...

This guy sounds like an excop who worked at the time and part of the first investigation . It kinda makes me wonder If he was he knows more then me Iguess .

SCATS said...

To 2:43PM ~~ Makes me wonder if it isn't our former BOE member who ran for Town Board several yrs. ago ... the misspell so similarly ;)

Anonymous said...

To 2:43
There is only one person alive who knew the truth. The rest of us arrived after. Sadly, delusional hero psychology lapses, dementia, and strokes have changed his knew to can't even recall the real facts!