Attorney requests statements removed

LISBON – The defense attorney for Amanda L. Cross, the woman accused of causing a fire in the trailer last summer due to cooking meth, is requesting Cross’ statements to agents of the state Fire Marshal’s Office be thrown out.

In Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Wednesday, defense attorney Charley Kidder questioned Todd Stitt of the state’s Fire, Explosion and Investigative Bureau on the witness stand about Cross’ condition when Stitt and another agent conducted interviews while she was still hospitalized with burns from the fire. Stitt had earlier testified after the fire on Aug. 17 that he learned Cross, who had been living there with Tommy Johnson, was at home when the fire occurred. She had been pulled out of the trailer and flown to Cleveland Metro Hospital due to the serious nature of her burns. On Aug. 20, Stitt went to question Cross, who had bandages on her face, hands and arms. Stitt said he identified himself and asked her what happened. She told him she was cooking a toasted cheese sandwich and there was some kind of explosion. Cross then fell asleep after speaking to him for about five minutes. Stitt said he learned she was being treated with medication.

Stitt and another agent returned on Aug. 28. This time Cross’ face was no longer covered with bandages. He said he again identified himself and said he did not believe she remembered him being there the first time. This time, she seemed alert, according to Stitt.

When she started talking about making meth, Stitt said he stopped her, started a digital recorder and read her the Miranda warnings. Cross continued then to give a statement to investigators about the cause of the fire in which she mentioned cooking meth.

Stitt testified for Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble that Cross seemed alert during the interview on Aug. 28. But Kidder questioned Stitt about the drugs she was taking due to her medical condition and if he knew when she had last taken them. Stitt admitted he did not speak with her nurse or doctor regarding her medications or whether any would have affected her ability to comprehend what was going on. She reportedly had an IV and a heart monitor when Stitt was there.

Judge Scott Washam said he would take the motion to suppress Cross’ statements under advisement.

Cross is charged with arson and illegal assembly or the possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs, fourth- and third-degree felonies, respectively. A jury trial is scheduled for Aug. 18.

The King Road trailer was owned by Richard Young. Winona, Damascus and North Georgetown fire departments battled the blaze, which Stitt said Wednesday began in the kitchen area.