(Current as of 8 Aug 12)
1. THE APARTMENT
Michael, Elise, and one-year-old Zachary Ledford lived in Apartment 17A of the Highland Hills Apartments complex in Stuarts Draft, Virginia. An overhead view of the complex is presented below. Building 17 is circled in red. North is towards the top of the image, as per convention.
As shown in the photo below, the Ledford apartment was located on the first floor, to the left as you enter Building 17. The orientation of the building will prove to be of some significance. North is to the right in the image below; south is to the left. West is into the image, and east is behind the reader. The front of the building is the east side.
Though the fire did not spread beyond the apartment living room, there was no need to actually enter the apartment to realize it had burned. The smoke streaks around the door testify to a serious fire within.
Similar streaks around an electrical outlet in the living room testify to a fire within the outlet, behind the faceplate.
Similar streaks beneath the circuit breaker panel in the master bedroom testify to a fire within the panel. When the panel door is opened, the heavy smoke deposition within is obvious.
Furthermore, two side-by-side images of the circuit breaker box, shown below, provide irrefutable evidence that either or both of the insurance investigators substantially altered and/or removed a circuit breaker.
1.1 The Floor Plan
The locations of the wall outlet and the circuit breaker panel are shown in the floor plan below.
The area around the entry door (at the upper right corner of the floor plan) is critical to this story. That area was captured in a photograph taken shortly before the fire, while the Ledford family and friends were celebrating Zachary's first birthday.
<< PHOTO NOT SHOWN>>
That is Zachary in the photograph. He is sitting on the lap of a family friend.
The upholstered chair and ottoman are obvious in the photograph. The quilt rack is visible behind the chair. The rack is covered with quilts and Afghans. The quilt rack and the chair would, soon after this picture was taken, provide the primary fuel load for the fire.
The end table, which is integral to the couch, is visible at the left. On top of the end table is a lamp. That lamp may have provided the ignition source for the fire.
The lamp is plugged into an electrical outlet located behind the couch, beyond the left edge of the photograph. The wall switch visible near the entry door controls the outlet. You have already seen the electrical outlet in a photograph presented earlier in this petition. You have seen that smoke was being ejected from behind its faceplate.
One of the guests at the birthday party, the daughter of the woman sitting in the chair, experienced trouble while attempting to turn on the lamp. She had to try repeatedly, using both the lamp and the wall switches, before she was successful. The woman in the chair witnessed the trouble.
When Michael Ledford left the apartment that night, shortly before the fire broke out, he flipped the wall switch to the ON position.