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Terri Hinson

At 3:35 am on Sunday, 20 Oct. 1996 a 911 call was received from Terri Hinson reporting a fire at her residence at 101 Wall St., Tabor City, North Carolina. Police arrived about 1 min. later to find Terri at her front door, but the smoke was too thick to proceed upstairs. Firefighters with airpacks then were able to go up and find Brittany (4 yrs) & Josh (17 mo.). Her 1-year-old son, Josh, was DOA. Her daughter survived and was put in a foster home. Hinson was charged with first degree murder, based on the belief by police that she had set the fire.

Forensic analyses:

Fire debris

Fire had burned a hole in the closet ceiling through which were visible in the attic a tangle of old, cloth-wrapped wires. A closet shelf, about a foot from the ceiling, was more badly burned on the underside. The right closet door suffered more damage than the left. On the floor lay burned clothes and linens, and on the wall above the pile, the fire had left behind a V.
The foundation of the case against Hinson rested on a Vshaped burn pattern in the closet of Josh’s secondfloor bedroom. Drawing from years of tradition, the government and insurance investigators determined that the V-shaped pattern marked the fire's point of origin -- the closet. The SBI reported that since there was nothing in the closet that could ignite the fire by itself, someone must have set it.

Postconviction review of forensic analysis and reporting

Case was examined by Gerald Hurst, and indepedent fire debris expert. Hurst's concluded that the point of origin wasn't the closet. It was the attic. The electrician's photographs served as evidence. If the fire had started in the closet, it would have destroyed Josh's bedroom before burning the hole in the closet ceiling and traveling into the attic. But the photographs showed that the damage in the attic was much worse than in the bedroom.Hurst’s conclusions: 1. The fire began in the attic above the closet in Joshua Hinson’s bedroom. 2. The fire burned through the ceiling and dropped down to the closet floor & then burst into the bedroom. 3. As the fire burned upwards from the closet floor it created the V-shaped pattern, eliminating whatever marks it had made in burning down through the ceiling.

North Carolina

Alleged crime occurred:

Date of original conviction:

Exoneration date:

National Registry of Exonerations link:

Other links:

https://www.nist.gov/system/files/documents/2016/11/22/six_thinking_hats_method_of-removing_bias_from_case_review.blackledge.humanfact.pdf
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