As trial for a spate of arson fires that killed nine people kicked off on Monday, prosecutors hinted at the accused murderer’s motive by focusing on the suspect’s hostility toward his neighbors. Prosecutors told a jury that Ohio man Stanley Ford ranted about “homosexuality” and said that a neighbor’s guest wanted to know his penis length.
In his opening statement, Summit County prosecutor Joe Dangelo tried to pick apart the reasons why the 62-year-old Ford allegedly set fire to two homes and a vehicle in separate arsons. No one died in the vehicle incident, but the first home fire on April 18, 2016 killed couple Lindell Lewis, 65, and Gloria Jean Hart, 66. The final blaze on May 15, 2017 wiped out an entire family: parents Angela Boggs, 38, and Dennis Huggins, 35, their children Cameron Huggins, 1, Alivia Huggins, 3, Kyle Huggins, 5, Daisia Huggins, 6, and Jared Boggs, 14. The family dog also died.
Ford allegedly voiced disdain for his neighbors in each of the fires. For example, Ford made lurid allegations portraying Lewis’s house as a den of iniquity, claiming that “prostitutes” plied their trades inside the home and the homeowner’s buddies sat on the front porch drinking alcohol. The accused murderer also allegedly called his neighbors from across the street “bad people,” whom he said “stole everything” and were “bothersome to everybody.” Ford also ranted that prostitutes “were dealing in homosexuality,” that Hart did drugs, that the people at the home were not his friends because of his “standards,” and that one of the men at the home wanted to see how long his penis was.
Ford’s mental state was a concern for both sides leading up to the trial. A judge determined in January 2020 that he was competent to face charges despite his diagnosis of having vascular dementia and brain damage. Ford voiced a conspiracy theory that his defense, the prosecution, and the judge were working against him, according to The Akron Beacon Journal. Shortly after his arrest in May 2017, Ford reached out to Cleveland-based broadcaster WEWS to proclaim his innocence, but he refused to appear on camera or answer specific questions about the case.
During opening statements, Dangelo described Hart as a retiree from a plant she worked her entire life and Lewis as a bricklayer, who was a good friend to many people. The prosecutor acknowledged to jurors that they will hear that some of Lewis’s friends were “rough around the edges.” Thomas Hugley, who escaped the first fire, did not deny that he didn’t get along with Ford, Dangelo said. Hugley faced allegations of breaking into Ford’s home, the prosecutor said.
Ford’s attorney Scott Riley did not dispute that someone set these fires intentionally or that these were murders, but he tried to suggest alternate suspects. For example, in regard to Lewis and Hart’s home, he said there was a history of drug and drug abuse, not paying dealers, and other conflict, as well as unrelated arson.
According to Dangelo, investigators at first suspected Angela Boggs’ former husband Patrick Boggs of starting that May 15, 2017 blaze because he once spent 12 years in prison for lighting her on fire. (He doused her in kerosene and threatened to light her on fire, according to a Columbus Dispatch report.) Investigators ruled him out as a suspect in the 2017 arson, however, prosecutors said.
According to the prosecution, the woman who owned the vehicle in the second fire said she once heard Ford threaten to “body” her son for walking through his yard.
Ford allegedly told investigators other claims about the Boggs-Huggins home, saying they did marijuana and that there were lots of people in and out of the residence. He accused the children of kicking vehicles and breaking rearview mirrors. Ford allegedly claimed that a neighbor named Paul told him that the boys tried to poison Paul’s dogs.
“I will tell you they just some bad people,” he said, according to the prosecution.
Ford allegedly voiced concern about his wife calling 911 regarding one of the fires because investigators would think he was a suspect.
[Screenshot via Law&Crime Network]
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