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Confession in arson of NT firefighter's home ruled admissible

The confession of Matthew W. Jurado, who told North Tonawanda police he set fire to the apartment of the city's only black firefighter, will be admissible at his trial, now scheduled for July 10.

Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III ruled Friday that he saw no legal reason to prevent the prosecution from using Jurado's statement, which was made Aug. 4, the day after the fire at the Oliver Street apartment of Kenneth D. Walker.

"OK, I'll tell you the truth," Jurado told Detective Larry Kuebler and Capt. Thomas Krantz in a conversation in front of the apartment building in which Jurado then lived, right across Oliver Street from Walker's home.

Jurado then said he went into Walker's apartment during the noon hour on Aug. 3, emptied lighter fluid on the couch, and ignited it. Police reported at the time that Jurado said he did it because he was angry after he had been kicked out of one of the city's volunteer fire companies and Walker was unable to get Jurado an application to join Walker's fire company.

Walker had called Jurado on Aug. 3, asking him to check to see if he and his wife had left their apartment unlocked.

The fire occurred two days after Walker, who has since moved to Erie County, received a racially threatening letter. Police have never determined who sent it.

Jurado has twice rejected a plea offer from the Niagara County District Attorney's Office to plead guilty third-degree arson, a charge carrying a maximum 15-year prison sentence, with a 3 1/2-year mandatory minimum.

Jurado, 40, is to be tried on a charge of second-degree arson. Conviction would mean a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, with a potential maximum of 25 years.

Assistant Public Defender A. Joseph Catalano said David A. Kubiak of Tonawanda will have a preliminary report ready next week, and a final report two weeks after that. Murphy ordered the sides to return to court for a pretrial conference May 19.

Jurado was to have been tried this week, but Catalano obtained a postponement to hire an expert witness to review the investigation of the fire.

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