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Review of deadly supper club fire is delayed

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - The review of new evidence in a fire near Cincinnati that killed 165 people 30 years ago is taking longer than expected, according to one of the legal experts exploring whether the investigation should be reopened.

Cecil Dunn, who led the original probe as a special prosecutor and is one of the lawyers appointed by Kentucky's governor to re-examine the case, said the panel's recommendation had been expected by mid-December but now won't be available until at least January or February.

He explained there had been a snag in trying to reach key witnesses of the 1977 fire at the Beverly Hills Supper Club in the northern Kentucky town of Southgate, but declined to elaborate. He would not directly address statements by some witnesses that they have not been contacted by the review panel.

"My client is the governor of the state of Kentucky and when I have a report, I will report that to him," Dunn said.

He said there are other areas of review beyond the information witnesses have supplied.

"You just can't go back into something cold," Dunn said. "You have to review certain items and information looked at 30 years ago and some of that is what we're doing."

Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Dunn and two others in October to review evidence presented by David Brock, an 18-year-old busboy at the nightclub when it burned down. Brock and other survivors claim the evidence suggests the blaze may have been intentionally set. He has said he doesn't want to publicly reveal the evidence because he fears retribution from those implicated.

Brock has previously said he saw two suspicious men in the area of the nightclub where the fire is believed to have started. Investigators eventually concluded that faulty electrical wiring ignited the fire, one of the nation's deadliest.

Some of the witnesses say they have had little to no contact with the legal experts appointed by Beshear. Brock told The Associated Press he had not heard from members of the governor's panel since a Nov. 10 meeting in Lexington attended by several survivors of the fire.

Brock said he provided Dunn and the other lawyers with numerous documents and contact information for fellow witnesses.

Among them was Bruce Rath, a former volunteer firefighter whose claims of suspicious activity at the club mirrored Brock's. Rath said he heard from the panel more than a month ago about setting up an interview, but there was no follow-up.

"So far, nobody's talked with me at all," Rath said.

Brock and Rath said they shared their information with investigators shortly after the fire, but their claims of arson were quickly dismissed. They said they feared retaliation and didn't pursue the matter further until years later, after learning that other witnesses were making similar observations about the suspicious activity.

"I guess we've got a full fuel tank and are just circling around the airport, waiting for instructions as to what to do," said Glenn Corbett, a fire investigator who is on the faculty at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

Corbett, who was involved in reviewing the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, thinks the supper club probe should be reopened because of the witness claims of suspicious activity and his belief that those claims were not fully investigated.

In an action plan Corbett sent the three-lawyer panel and supplied to The Associated Press, he asks that the Kentucky State Police not be involved in the investigation due to its initial findings that arson wasn't to blame. Should Beshear decline to reopen the investigation on the state level, Corbett said he would ask the federal government to get involved.

"This is a 31-year-old case," Corbett said. "It might be impossible to prosecute this, but we don't know that until we've completed the investigation."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Replies to This Discussion

Thank you for the update, Glenn.


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