Criminal Cases

State of Arizona v Daniel Cook

On March 27th 2021, a fire occurred at the “Spencer’s TV and Appliance Warehouse”, in Tempe Arizona. The fire was reported at approximately 8:06 P.M., after the employees had already clocked out and left for the day. Among those employees was Daniel Cook, who had been employed by Spencer’s for several years, and was considered by his supervisors to be a good employee. There were other employees who also left at the same time as Daniel, including a temporary employee from a temp agency.

The fire did extensive damage inside the warehouse including destroying and/or damaging several million dollars’ worth of electronics and appliances.

The fire was investigated by the Tempe fire and police departments.

Based upon the investigation performed by the Detective with the Tempe Police Department and the Assistant Fire Marshal for the Fire Department , Daniel Cook was arrested and charged with arson/ reckless burning.

The state alleged that Mr. Cook had been seen on video, in the area where the fire started, some time prior to the fire manifesting itself. Mr. Cook alleged that he had been in that area filling orders, as that was a part of his job duties. The state also relied on a statement made by a temporary employee that they had seen Mr. Cook using a Bic lighter earlier in the day to sever straps from a pallet. This statement and interview with the temporary employee were done telephonically by the police and fire investigator and they had never talked with this individual in person. This is, even after, a plant manager had reported seeing that temporary employee in the same area after Mr. Cook was seen there on video.

The state also relied heavily on some non-scientific and flawed testing that they had done. This testing was done to show that the straps Mr. Cook was alleged to have severed, could have been a competent ignition source for this fire. In part, what was wrong with this theory, was that the fire clearly did not start in the area where Mr. Cook was alleged to have used a Bic lighter to have severed the straps. Also, wrong with the state’s theory, was that the person reporting this was the same temporary employee that was reportedly seen in the area where the fire originated after Mr. Cook was seen in the area. Lastly, the state failed to rule out accidental sources such as a fluorescent light directly above the area of origin, that showed damage that could have been a causal factor in this fire. The state also failed to consider a large industrial ceiling fan that was reported to have smelled like an electrical fire earlier in the day and had been turned off.

Andler & Associates was retained by Mr. Cook’s attorney to perform an analysis of the case. Dave Smith of Andler & Associates performed a thorough and complete investigation in compliance with NFPA 921. This included, scene examination, interviews, fire dynamics and fire pattern analysis, and a thorough review of all the reports and photographs submitted by the fire and police departments.

An investigative report was prepared by Andler & Associates and submitted to the state’s attorney. Defense interviews with the Detective and Assistant Fire Marshal were performed, wherein Dave Smith, with Andler & Associates was able to pose direct questions to these investigators with the state’s attorney present. These questions seriously challenged the state’s unsupported theories.

After completion of the interviews with the Detective and Assistant Fire Marshal, and a review of the report submitted by Andler & Associates, the state’s attorney dismissed the charges against Mr. Cook.

In this case, Andler & Associates was able to show that the fire was not investigated properly, and the conclusions drawn by the Detective and Assistant Fire Marshal were not grounded in the scientific methodology prescribed within the directive NFPA 921 (National Fire Protection Association) “Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations”.


Daniel Cook (center) with his defense team celebrating the dismissal of all charges.

(L-R, Roman Rosales @Ortega & Ortega Lawyers, Lorena Rodriguez @ Ortega & Ortega Lawyers, Attorney Alane Ortega @ Ortega & Ortega Lawyers, Daniel Cook, Dave Smith @ Andler & Associates, Larry Rives @ NW Investigations, & Pat Andler @ Andler & Associates.)

State of Arizona v Hector Sarty Aceves

Andler & Associates was retained to assist with the defense of Mr. Sarty- Aceves, who was alleged to have killed and set an individual on fire.  The state was seeking the death penalty in this case based upon the aggravating circumstance of the body being set on fire.

Andler & Associates conducted a thorough investigation based upon all the information available, including performing some critical  testing.  This testing involved the burning of a mannequin with similar exemplar clothing as was worn by the deceased, and in a similar setting.

Utilizing the testing and factoring in other variables, Andler & Associates was able to determine an approximate time of ignition for the burning body. This information was presented to the state’s attorney and the defendant was then offered a plea agreement of life without the death penalty.

The testing done by Andler & Associates was instrumental in the defense acquiring the plea agreement, as it showed the inability of the state’s experts to show when the fire was ignited.  It also showed that the individual was already deceased when the fire was set.

State of Arizona v Hector Sarty Aceves

Side by side comparison of crime scene with testing performed by Andler & Associates.

Andler & Associates Criminal case State of New Mexico v. Alex Slaughter

In January of 2018 a fire occurred at the home of Alex Slaughters girlfriend in Santa Fe New Mexico. Prior to the fire Alex and his girlfriend had been involved in a domestic dispute and his girlfriend left the residence, thereby ending the argument. A short time later, she returned to the house with the local police because of the domestic dispute situation. When she returned the house was on fire and the fire department was notified.

An incomplete investigation was performed into the origin and causation of this fire by the local police and fire departments and conclusions were made based upon the recent domestic dispute Alex and his girlfriend had been involved in. Investigators fell victim to the phenomenon, well known within the fire industry, as “expectation bias”. This is when “investigator/s reach a premature conclusion without having examined or considered all of the relevant data”. (National Fire Protection Association guide to Fire and Explosion Investigations)

What they concluded was that after the domestic dispute and the girlfriend leaving the home, Alex set the residence on fire then went home himself. The only evidence offered by the State to support this hypothesis was that Alex and his girlfriend had been involved in an argument prior to the fire. Meanwhile Alex was charged with arson, a felony, and had obtained legal counsel to represent him. Alex’s legal counsel retained the services of Andler & Associates who conducted a complete comprehensive review of all the data available including reports, photographs, transcripts, etc.

Alex had contended that after his girlfriend left the house during their argument, he then left and went home to his house. What was determined was that during the argument a floor lamp that was on and energized was knocked over. The State’s investigators never considered this lamp, nor did they examine the remains of it that were concluded to be in the area where the fire originated.

Pat Andler met with legal counsel and with the State’s District Attorney and presented the profoundly serious deficiencies in the State’s case and showed where and how the fire actually started. As a result of this, the State offered a reduced charge of a misdemeanor criminal damage to Alex, for knocking over the lamp. This action by the State, essentially admits that their investigators had not got it right and the case was not in fact an arson. Alex was sentenced to probation and upon completion the misdemeanor charge was expunged.

United States v. Hauser 2018

Mr. Hauser was arrested and charged with arson of an occupied structure as a result of a fire that had occurred at a U.S. Forestry building in Fredonia Arizona.

Andler and Associates was appointed by the United States Public Defenders Office as a fire expert to assist Mr. Hauser’s attorney with his criminal defense.  At the end of the trial the jury was not convinced by the prosecution of the arson charge and concluded with a hung jury. This resulted in the prosecution offering Mr. Hauser a plea to a much lesser charge of providing false information to law enforcement and a time served and released from custody.

State of New Mexico v. Jennifer Driver 2018

The State of New Mexico Public Defenders Office retained Andler and Associates to conduct an origin and cause investigation of a fire that had occurred at Ms. Driver’s home and to perform a technical review of the reports submitted by the State’s fire investigator.

Ms. Driver had been arrested and charged with arson of an occupied structure as a result of a fire that had occurred at her residence. The State’s fire investigator had concluded the fire was the result of an arson and that Ms. Driver was responsible for initiating the fire.

After a review of all the facts and evidence in this case, Andler and Associates prepared a comprehensive investigative report. The State’s investigator had failed to follow the requisite standards for a competent and correct fire investigation and had offered opinions that were flawed and inaccurate. Andler & Associates highlighted the inaccuracies of the State’s investigation and after review of the report authored by Andler and Associates the State dismissed all charges against Ms. Driver.

State of New Mexico v. Jessica Kelley 2018

Andler and Associates was retained by the New Mexico Public Defenders Office as a fire expert to assist defense counsel with the representation of Ms. Kelley who was charged with homicide and arson.  The allegations of the crime were horrific and had made international news.

Andler and Associates performed an objective review of the case including reviewing all reports submitted by the prosecution and a scene examination. After communicating the findings of the Andler and Associates investigation, the defendant entered a plea agreement with the State of New Mexico and was sentenced to seventy years.

State of Arizona v. Mr. Calmus

On December 12, 2014, Mr. Calmus was indicted on assaulting two individuals with the use of fire. Mr. Calmus was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on four counts which is a felony and was looking at five to ten years in prison.

Mr. Andler was retained in behalf of the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He was able to review the entire file provided, examination of artifacts along with questions to the state’s experts and he testified on April 28, 2016 at the trial. Mr. Andler was the only expert witness that testified in behalf of the defense.

After a two and a half hour deliberation by the jury, Mr. Calmus was found not guilty on all count he had been arrested on and was released immediately after the trial.

Mr. Andler was highly praised by the Pima County Public Defender’s office for his work on this case.

State of Arizona v. Robert Gibson

Mr. Gibson stand accused by the Pima County prosecutors of 14 counts of fraud, arson, criminal damage and endangerment. The charges stem from a fire that occurred at his business located in Tucson, Arizona and damage exceeded one million dollars. The Pima County prosecutor stated that it was an arson for profit case and Mr. Gibson would a range of 21 years in prison. If found guilty of all charges, his sentence could be stacked consecutively to total more than 70 years.

Patrick Andler was retained in behalf of Mr. Gibson to conduct a peer review and an origin and cause investigation two years after the fire had occurred. Relying on the Tucson Fire Department reports along with ATF and Mr. Gibson’s insurance company investigation, Mr. Andler came to the conclusion that it was not an arson fire but a fire of undetermined origin likely to have been caused by spontaneous combustion by an employee of Mr. Gibson.

The Pima County Attorney’s office spent over two years investigating in which authorities compiled twenty thousand pages that now fill twelve boxes. Furthermore, 45 witnesses were scheduled to testify in behalf of the prosecutors.

After four years of litigation, Mr. Gibson’s attorneys filed a Daubert motion challenging the reliability of the two state experts under Rule 702. Both Fire Investigator Tinnen of the Tucson Fire Department and ATF Special Agent Hildick testified. Both state experts relied upon NFPA 921 to form their opinion and determined that Mr. Gibson was the responsible party for causing an arson fire at his own business. Patrick Andler testified stating that they failed to comply with NFPA 921 under Rule 702 and overlooked several fire patterns that did not indicate this to have been an arson fire whatsoever.

On July 25, 2013, Judge Tang of the Pima County Superior Court ruled on the defendant’s motion to preclude the expert testimony of Tucson Fire Investigator Tinnen and ATF Special Agent Hildick. In consideration that the state had no expert witness to testify pertaining to the origin and cause of the fire, all criminal charges were dismissed by Deputy Pima County Attorney Malena Acosta. Honorable Judge Tang goes on to state ” The court is persuaded that the deficits of the conclusions reached by either expert are significant enough in terms of reliability and crucial enough in terms of relevance to bar their presentation to the jury.”

To obtain a copy of the Daubert ruling made by Judge Tang, please contact Pat Andler.

State of Arizona v. Carl Caples

Mr. Caples, a former law enforcement officer was arrested by the Phoenix Fire Department and charged with arson of an occupied structure, a class two felony. Mr. Caples was appointed attorney Diane Sullivan from the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office. Ms. Sullivan retained the services of Patrick Andler to conduct an origin and cause investigation approximately 9 months after Mr. Caples was arrested. The fire scene was not available to be inspected and Mr. Andler had to rely upon photographs taken by the insurance company and Phoenix Fire Department investigators.

During the course of this investigation it was determined that Mr. Caples was charged with arson of an occupied structure because of multiple points of origin identified in the area of the carport. Upon conducting the investigation, Patrick Andler determined that it was not arson but an electrical fire that originated up in the attic space in his rental property.

Mr. Andler was later interviewed by the prosecuting attorney and upon completion of the interview, criminal charges were dismissed on Carl Caples after he had spent 14 months in the county jail.

All criminal charges were dismissed and the Phoenix fire investigator was later instructed to take additional fire investigation classes. Mr. Caples was released from the county jail and now resides in Chicago, Illinois.

State of Arizona vs Barbara Sloan

Ms. Sloan was arrested by the Phoenix Fire Department and charged with arson and insurance fraud of an occupied structure. Looking at spending 25 years in prison if convicted, she retained legal counsel to defend and investigate the serious allegations. Patrick Andler and Dave Smith of Andler & Associates were retained to conduct an investigation and were retained by Ms. Sloan.

Approximately 9 months after Ms. Sloan had been arrested, it was determined that the residence was still intact and as a result Andler & Associates were able to conduct a fire scene examination. During the course of the fire scene examination it was determined that Farmers Insurance Company had retained the services of a private fire investigator.

During the course of the investigation conducted by Andler & Associates it was determined there were not multiple points of origin as alleged by the Phoenix fire investigator and the private fire investigator from Farmers Insurance. Fire patterns indicated that the origin of the fire was in a defective Toyota Corolla vehicle that had been parked in the garage.

It was recommended to the defense attorneys from Patrick Andler that a peer review be performed by a third party. Peer review would consist of reviewing all the investigation conducted by Andler & Associates and investigation conducted by Phoenix Fire Department. A more senior fire investigator with the Phoenix Fire Department did conduct the peer review and determined that there was no evidence of a crime but agreed with Andler & Associates that the fire did start in the garage.

As a result of these findings, all criminal charges were dismissed on Barbara Sloan. Ms. Sloan has spent her entire life savings of over three hundred thousand dollars defending herself in this case.

State of Arizona vs Donald Phillips

Mr. Phillips was charged and arrested for arson of an occupied structure. Mr. Phillips was represented by the Public Defender’s Office and Andler & Associates was retained to represent Mr. Phillips to conduct an origin and cause investigation.

Approximately 12 months since the fire, the house was found to still be intact and as a result Andler & Associates were able to conduct an independent origin and cause investigation. During the course of the investigation, it was determined by the Phoenix Fire Department and an independent fire investigator that there were alleged to have been two points of origin to this fire. First point of origin was the exterior patio area located in front of the house. Second point of origin was the dining room area adjacent to the front patio. Mr. Phillips had been home at the time of the fire and was in the back bedroom when the fire broke out. Mr. Phillips, a known cigarette smoker, had been sitting on the front patio smoking a cigarette when he accidently disposed of its hot embers inside an artificial tree stand. When Mr. Phillips entered the residence to answer the phone, a fire occurred on the front patio. Two witnesses that were in the area had seen the fire occurring on the front patio and also observed what they believed to have been a second fire in the dining room area.

As a result of the witness statements and fire scene examination by the Phoenix Fire Department and the private fire investigator, Mr. Phillips was arrested for arson of an occupied structure.

During the course of the investigation conducted by Andler & Associates it was determined that there was a large mirror hanging on the dining room wall that was adjacent to the front patio. What the witnesses actually saw was the reflection of the fire in the mirror as the fire occurred on the front patio. Both prior fire investigators had not witnessed the large mirror and had overlooked it during the course of their scene examination.

Andler & Associates had collected over 22 items of evidence during the course of their investigation, including the front door of the residence, remains of the mirror, the mirror frame, carpet samples and the rear Arcadia door.

Approximately two weeks prior to the trial to be started, the defense attorney requested that the prosecutor visit Andler & Associates at the fire scene on Mr. Phillips house. The prosecutor did arrive at the residence, spent less than 15 minutes, did not believe that we knew anything about fire investigation, turned to Mr. Andler and said “I will see you in court”. Two weeks later, Mr. Andler was testifying in the criminal case and was on the stand for two days.

During this jury trial, Mr. Andler provided a power point presentation identifying the multiple fire patterns along with an animation and testing that done with the artificial tree that was the source of fuel and point of origin to this fire.

Upon completion of the trial, the jury met for approximately two hours and rendered a verdict of not guilty for Mr. Phillilps.

The following day, the judge in this case praised Mr. Andler for a thorough and complete investigation along with his testimony to the jury.

State of California vs Sean Miller

June 13th 2012 shortly after 7:00 A.M. a fire occurred at the Days Inn Hotel in Needles CA. The fire was first discovered and reported by the day shift manager Sean Miller. The San Bernardino county fire department and Sheriff’s office responded. The hotel was successfully evacuated and there were no injuries as the fire was limited to the manager’s office and front lobby area. Fire and law enforcement officials immediately started investigating this as arson and at the close of the day Sean Miller was arrested and charged with arson.

Dave Smith of Andler & Associates was hired by the insurance company for the hotel to conduct an origin and cause investigation of this fire. After utilizing all of our resources including an accelerant detection K-9 and an electrical engineer and a complete and thorough investigation it was concluded exactly where the fire started and why. The fire was the result of a “high resistance fault to ground” at an electrical receptacle inside the manager’s office. This was done utilizing the methods and standards set forth in NFPA 921.

Andler & Associates reported its findings to their client the insurance company and meanwhile had learned that Sean Miller had been arrested and charged with arson. The family for Mr. Miller had retained a criminal defense attorney however was limited by their budget and could not afford to hire an expert to dispute the state’s charge of arson. Andler & Associates Investigator, Dave Smith, traveled to California and worked with Mr. Miller’s attorney pro bono and testified at an all day criminal preliminary hearing in San Bernardino County court. At the conclusion of the hearing the judge ordered Mr. Miller released and cited that there was absolutely no evidence to suggest that this fire was arson and further that it was very clear that it was in fact an accidental electrical fire. After 36 days in custody, Sean Miller was released from jail.

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