Investigator testifies about interviews with Joseph Meyers

BATH — Joseph A. Meyers, who is accused of setting the fire that killed his former employee David O’Dell, gave three separate depositions to New York State Police within a six-hour period on Feb. 15, 2016, just hours after the Wayland man died in the devastating New Galen Road blaze.

A Steuben County jury Thursday heard testimony detailing Meyers’ initial statements to authorities investigating the early morning fire that killed the 60-year-old O’Dell.

The jury also saw several excerpts of surveillance video from the Meyers property. It covered the late night hours of Feb. 14, 2016 and the early morning hours of Feb. 15.

Several of O’Dell’s siblings sat in Judge Joseph W. Latham’s courtroom Thursday afternoon as their late brother was described as a person who stole $40 from his employer, heard voices, and contemplated burning down his house.

Those descriptions were provided by Meyers in depositions to a State Police investigator, according to sworn testimony.

Meyers, 45, is charged with first-and-second degree murder, first-degree arson, first-degree falsifying business records, second-degree attempted insurance fraud and fourth-degree conspiracy. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The three statements, which were provided to State Police Inv. Thomas Khork, were similar in many details, but changed in the second and third depositions in respect to Meyers’ actions after 9 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2016, Khork testified. Authorities believe the fire was set about 1 a.m., Feb. 15, 2016. It was discovered by a passing motorist at approximately 4:40 a.m., with total fire involvement and very little of the structure still upright.

Khork said he first spoke with Meyers at about 8:45 a.m., Feb. 15, 2016 inside a noisy and chaotic command center that authorities had set up near the Wayland fire scene. Meyers explained, Khork said, that he had been awakened at 8 a.m. by a phone call from David O’Dell’s sister, Phyllis Reamer. She told him that something was going on at her brother’s house, and that fire trucks and emergency vehicles were there.

“I found that David’s house had burned to the ground with him inside,” Khork quoted Meyers as saying.

Khork said the pair soon moved into a computer-equipped trooper car, so the investigator could type up the statements and print them out.

Khork said he took two depositions from Meyers at the Galen Road site. Meyers signed the first deposition at 9:28 a.m. and the second deposition about an hour later, Khork told Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker.

According to Khork’s testimony, Meyers said he had been friends with O’Dell for 33 years and thought of him as a member of the family. However, on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016 — the day before the fire — Meyers said he went to his friend’s house and accused O’Dell of taking a company check and stealing $40 from a tool box at Loon Lake Services, Meyers’s business.

Meyers told Khork, according to the investigator, that he got the $40 back, and told O’Dell he was fired.

“I don’t deal with thieves,” Meyers told O’Dell, according to the investigator’s report.

O’Dell then said, according to Meyers, “If I can never come over, I have nothing to live for.”

Meyers also told the investigator, according to Khork’s testimony, that for the last eight to ten months, O’Dell had been “hearing voices” telling him to burn down his house. It was for that reason, in part, Meyers allegedly told Khork, that his wife, Iryn Meyers, moved in with O’Dell.

Khork also testified that Meyers informed him of a life insurance policy that Iryn Meyers took out on O’Dell. Khork said that Joseph Meyers explained that the $40,000 life insurance policy was motivated so there would be money to “provide a proper burial if anything happened” to O’Dell.

Upset about the confrontation with O’Dell, Meyers said he spent the next several hours getting intoxicated at the Laf a Lot bar and grill in Wayland. Meyers, according to Khork, said he was too drunk to drive home, so he left his truck behind and got a ride home from someone he identified as Jason Allison at about 8:20 p.m.

“Did the defendant ever mention leaving the house after 8:20,” Baker asked Khork.

“No,” Khork said.

Khork told the jury that while Joseph Meyers was speaking to him, other investigators were chatting with Iryn Myers. Khork said he kept returning to Joseph Meyers for new statements, because his recollection of events was differing with those of his wife.

Iryn Meyers is not a defendant in the current proceedings. She’s scheduled to go on trial in July.

In the second deposition, according to Khork, Meyers acknowledged that he did leave his residence later that night. Some time after 11 p.m., Meyers said, he and his wife began driving to Logan’s Inn Pool & Fitness Center in Dansville to use a hot tub. They Googled the business during the drive, discovered it had closed for the night, and drove back home, according to the deposition.

During the third deposition, which took place at the Wayland State Police barracks, Meyers told Khork that he and his wife went to the New Galen Road house some time after 11 p.m. Meyers, according to Khork, said he wanted to talk with O’Dell further about the stolen money. Khork’s report said Meyers told him he was able to retrieve his truck from the Laf a Lot and drive it home.

Earlier Thursday, jurors were shown a series of videos from Meyers’ home/business surveillance system, which State Police had seized in a warrant search on March 7, 2016. With a State Police investigator testifying, jurors saw Joseph and Iryn Meyers arrive at the home/business at state Route 21 and Chappell Road in separate vehicles shortly after 11 p.m.

Some time later they leave together in Iryn Meyers’ car.

At 12:03 a.m., Feb. 15, Iryn Meyers’ car returns to the residence, and the pair take several minutes to unload items from the car.

At 12:40 Iryn appears to put a duffle bag-like item in the back of her car. They drive off again at 12:44 a.m., according to the video.

The jury then saw the car return at 1:17 a.m. At 1:20 a.m. Iryn Meyers exits the car, and walks into the Meyers’ home. It appears she is carrying a propane torch in the crook of her left arm.

The jury saw two last videos. Joseph and Iryn Meyers leave together in a car at 7:20 a.m., Feb. 15. The vehicle returns at 7:29 a.m., and they get out of the vehicle and go inside.

The defense was set to begin cross examination of Inv. Khork today.