Woman charged with arson, murder for fire that killed 2 KC firefighters

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Fifteen days after two Kansas City firefighters were killed battling a blaze at Independence Ave. and Prospect, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker announced charges against a Kansas City woman who they say intentionally set the fire that took the lives of Larry Leggio, 43, and John Mesh, 39.

Thu Hong Nguyen, 43, faces one count of Arson in the 1st Degree and two counts of 2nd Degree Murder or Felony Murder.

On Monday, Oct. 12, crews arrived to the fire at about 7:30 p.m. and brought two people out of the building. Flames could be seen shooting out of the commercial and residential structure. It quickly escalated and a full 2nd alarm was requested. Crews were trying to suppress the fire and also conducting rescue operations. Then they shifted into defensive operation and pulled back. It was then that the wall collapsed on Leggio and Mesh.

For two weeks, investigators have been going through the rubble as well as interviewing witnesses, tenants and victims.

According to the probable cause statement, firefighters determined that the fire started in a northeast corner storage room of the LN Salon and Spa, a business owned by Nguyen.

LN Salon and Spa was one of several businesses and residences destroyed in the fire. The others were Speedy Cash Payday Loans, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, Gracie's Store and 16-apartment units that extended above the businesses.

When fire investigators questioned Nguyen about the fire, she told them she left LN Salon and Spa at approximately 7:15 p.m. on the night of the fire, secured the business and left the area in the presence of two other people.  They say they later determined only one person was with Nguyen when she left.  Prosecutors  say that before Nguyen left the salon for the night, she poured acetone alcohol in the stock room and lit it on fire.

They also say Thu Hong Nguyen is connected to two other fires:

  • On July 25, 2013, a fire at Nails USA in Lee's Summit. Nguyen was an employee at the time.
  • January 6, 2015, a fire at an apartment at 2608 Independence Ave, which also damaged LN Salon and Spa. The cause of that fire was determined to have been intentionally set.

In an interview on Monday, Oct. 26, police say Nguyen stated she received insurance payouts as a result of the fires that occurred on July 26 and January 16.

"During that same interview, Thu Hong Nguyen made statements that conflicted with statements made by other witness about who was with her when she left LN Salon and Spa on the night of the fire," the probable cause statement says. "Thu Hong Nguyen also made statements. regarding phone calls that were inconsistent with a physical examination of her cell phone activity."

Nguyen is held on a two million dollar bond.

Leggio was a 17-year veteran and Fire Apparatus Operator. He leaves behind a wife and mother and immediate family members.

John Mesh, 39, of Pumper 10 leaves behind a wife and four young daughters.   He was a 13-year veteran.

Two firefighters killed Oct 12 fighting a fire: Larry Leggio and John Mesh.

Two firefighters killed Oct 12 fighting a fire: Larry Leggio and John Mesh.

"On behalf of the Mesh family, the Leggio family, both injured firemen, the entire firefighter family, what I say to you is, 'We will fight for you,' and we're going to fight for justice in this case," Peters-Baker said.

"This fire was very difficult for all of us," said Gregory Gant, ATF Special Agent in Charge. "Regardless of the badge on our uniforms, those who dedicate their lives to protecting the public form a brotherhood that bonds all of us together."

Peters-Baker and Gant, at a news conference where charges were announced.

Peters-Baker and Gant, at a news conference where charges were announced.

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