Arson, murder charges dismissed against PTC couple
Evidence from fire scene not provided to prosecutors
Fayette County prosecutors have dropped all charges against Scott Dahlman and Valerie Dahlman who had been accused of murdering his mother, Francis Dahlman, by setting her on fire in their Peachtree City home Aug. 31, 2008.
The dismissal was necessary due to missing evidence: a white sheet that had a burn pattern on it, according to a motion filed Monday by Assistant District Attorney Warren Sellers.
The white sheet was not photographed, seized, secured or properly maintained by the Peachtree City fire marshall, and is “no longer available,” according to the motion. The sheet also was not considered by the state fire marshall in his analysis of the fire scene, the document said.
“The state believes the above, when considered with the other evidence available to the state at this time, will create a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused and that while there was probable cause for the arrest, there is insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” the motion said.
Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth said today he had no comment on the matter due to an ongoing personnel investigation.
The presence of the white sheet at the crime scene was revealed in a video recording of the fire scene that also was not initially turned over to the state fire marshall or the detective investigating the case “even though both requested all relevant evidence concerning the case,” according to the motion.
Francis Dahlman lived in the basement of her son’s home and suffered burns while she was in a recliner, police said. An autopsy determined that Francis Dahlman burned to death in Scott and Valerie Dahlman’s home in the Crabapple Woods subdivision in north Peachtree City.
In a bond hearing in December, a nurse who cared for Francis Dahlman in her basement apartment testified that the evening before the fire, she recalled a candle being lit on a table immediately next to Francis Dahlman’s recliner. The nurse also testified that Valerie Dahlman gave excellent care to her mother in law and that Francis Dahlman had been under hospice care.
Prosecutor Sellers at that bond hearing suggested that 11 days prior to the fire, Francis Dahlman had suffered a severe seizure and Valerie Dahlman wouldn’t let medical personnel take her mother in law to the hospital for treatment.
Defense attorney Ed Garland submitted evidence at the hearing showing that Francis Dahlman had a “do not resuscitate” order filed in addition to orders from her hospice physician that she not be forced to take her medication.