Murderer gets life for arson slaying fate in jury's hands

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Dale Allen Meadows, 42, was found guilty Thursday of the fiery murder of Lorraine Pattison in criminal court proceedings in Berryville.

He was also found guilty of arson.

For capital murder, he was given a mandatory automatic life sentence without parole. He was given 10 years in prison for arson. Consideration of lesser offenses than capital murder was not included in jury instructions.

A jury of five women and seven men went into deliberations at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, following a fast-paced line of witnesses by the state, which included all witnesses the defense planned to call.

Testimony in the trial saw several witnesses who also testified in the trial of Meadows' wife, Terese Marie Meadows, who was found guilty last week of both capital and second-degree murder, along with felony arson.

That verdict resulted in a motion for a mistrial due to the finding of guilt on two charges regarding the death of "Lori" Pattison, the girlfriend of Mr. Meadows. A hearing on the motion for mistrial is scheduled for Aug. 28, when Mrs. Meadows is expected to be sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutor Doug Norwood's agreement Thursday to not include lesser charges for consideration by the jury was an apparent attempt to prevent a similar dual finding in Dale Meadows' case.

The jury instruction regarding capital murder was tied directly to arson, and, due to the dangerous nature of fire, arson is part of the capital murder statutes in Arkansas.

Prior to the sentence being pronounced by Circuit Court Judge Alan D. Epley, Meadows maintained that one of the state's star witnesses, Tommy Conner, was not present at the murder scene prior to the Nov. 7, 2001, fire that resulted in Pattison's death.

While Norwood continued to portray Mrs. Meadows as a bad actor in the November 2001 death of Pattison, it was proven from the testimony of state medical examiner Dr. Stephen A. Erickson that Pattison actually died of smoke inhalation rather than death resulting from stabbing or blood loss.

Dale Meadows' history as an arsonist did not come out during the trial, but his story, consistent throughout the investigation, was that he was passed out on the couch in the trailer he shared with Pattison, located between Green Forest and Denver.

Prior to sentencing on the arson charge, Epley noted Meadow's guilt in earlier cases on three different counts of driving while intoxicated, one count of forgery and a felony reckless burning charge.

The reckless burning conviction was eerily similar to the story Meadows told about the fire in which Pattison died.

In September 2001 in Green Forest, Meadows set fire to the couch he said he was tired of seeing his girlfriend sleeping upon, subsequently setting fire to a different trailer house.

Then, in November, when Lori Pattison died, Meadows told investigators that in November 2001, Pattison tried to rouse him from the couch, and then set fire to it with a lighter. They attempted to put the fire out by beating it with a pillow, but when the fire was out of control, they exited the residence.

Pattison then became concerned about a dog in the trailer house and went back inside, Meadows told investigators. She purportedly went back to find the animal, and by the time she got back to the living room, the door she had used to come back inside was blocked by fire, he told the investigators at the time.

In Meadows' trial, Investigator Tracy Spencer of the Arkansas State Police further stated that Meadows claimed Pattison went to a side door, which Meadows said he attempted to pry open, but that the door had been sealed shut.

Meadows' statements about an attempt to get Pattison out of the structure through a window varied, as evidenced by testimony by law enforcement investigators.

Investigator Spencer and Meadows family friend Tim Lively noted Meadows' beard and arm hair had been singed the day after the fire. Defense Attorney Herb Wright said that was evidence of Meadows' attempts to rescue Pattison.

Fire experts Chuck Rexford of the Washington County Sheriff's Office and Bill Baskins of the Arkansas State Police testified, however, that the fire was started using an accelerant, possibly kerosene, in the back bedroom.

They also found that the bedroom window had been broken from inside, prior, or immediately prior, to the fire.

It was that bedroom which Thomas Conner, now serving time in prison for fourth-offense driving while intoxicated, testified that he saw Mrs. Meadows go in to talk to Pattison, who was trying to hide from her there.

Shortly afterward, Conner said he and Meadows heard Pattison scream for help, and that Meadows went back to the bedroom.

Conner testified that Meadows came back to the living room some time later, with blood on his jeans and arms, and said that his wife had killed Pattison.

Meadows told Conner to leave, Conner said, and as he pulled away he saw Meadows grab a jug of kerosene on the front porch.

Both Dale and Terese Meadows have maintained that Conner is lying. Conner did not come forward with his information about the fire until November 2002.

Prosecutor Norwood, however, maintains Conner's testimony is an attempt to come clean with the community regarding the guilt he had for not doing something to help Pattison, a friend who he had known since both were teenagers.

In explaining the blood on his jeans, Meadows told investigators that Pattison wanted to emulate a marriage ritual she had seen in the movie, "Natural Born Killers." In that movie. a couple cut their hands and mixed their blood.

Pattison, Meadows told investigators, cut her hand for the ritual, but he did not, saying that the blood on his clothing was hers. However, Mary Robinette, a forensic biologist with the state crime lab, testified that the blood on the jeans was consistent with that of Meadows.

Robinette also found DNA of both Meadows and Pattison in fingernail scrapings from Meadows.

Meadows' many varied stories about the fire included one in which Pattison set the couch afire, and then they extinguished the blaze and she went to bed, and he reset the fire and went to bed, telling her it was burning again.

With the case dormant for almost a year after Pattison's body was delivered to the state crime lab, family friend Lively testified that within a few days of the fire, Meadows seemed suicidal, asking for pencil, paper and a gun, saying he was "just going to get it over with."

At the time, Lively said, Meadow's hands were shaking and he was not drinking, indicating he may have been going through withdrawal from alcohol.

Meadow's step-daughter, in the courtroom during the trial, demonstrated considerably more emotion when he was sentenced than she showed at the trial of her natural mother.

Pattison's family members, from Iowa, were also present for the trials of the Meadows couple.

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