By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer
A Madison County jury was offer two theories to explain the actions of 51-year-old Wayne Irvine on April 17, the day he doused himself and his girlfriend’s house in gasoline and told police he wanted officers to shoot him.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Brian Barker called what happened a “sorry suicide attempt” by an ill-and-troubled man who was just crying out for help.
“If your intention is to burn a house down, it’s a bad, bad idea to cover yourself in gasoline,” Barker said.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Smith depicted a more sinister motive behind Irvine’s actions that day on Fairview Court.
“His plan was to kill (his girlfriend), kill himself and go out in a blaze of glory,” Smith said in his closing statement.
In the end, the jury leaned toward the defense’s explanation of the crime. The jurors found Irvine guilty of attempted three-degree arson, which is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail. Irvine originally was indicted on a charge of felony attempted second-degree arson.
The lesser charge means the jury believed Irvine’s actions were wanton, rather than intentional.
If Irvine had been found guilty on the felony arson charge, his sentencing range would have been five to 10 years in prison.
The jury also found Irvine guilty of felony first-degree criminal mischief, a crime that carries a sentence of one to five years in prison. The jury recommended a sentence of four years on that charge, which was related to the $14,000 in damage done to Melissa Bowling’s home and belongings.
In addition, the jury recommended Irvine serve concurrent misdemeanor sentences of 12 months each for third-degree attempted arson and violating a DVO, and 90 days for menacing.
The jury found Irvine not guilty on a second menacing charge.
Because Irvine has served 310 days in jail awaiting trial, he already is parole-eligible. Kentucky law states he is eligible after serving 15 percent of his sentence, which is a little over seven months.
Judge Jean C. Logue set Irvine’s sentencing for 11:30 a.m. March 6.
Melissa Bowling testified Tuesday in the second day of the trial. She said although she’d gotten a domestic violence order against Irvine in November 2011, she had allowed him to move back in her home in February.
The morning of April 17, Bowling was at work in Frankfort. Irvine called her in a rage, and after letting him vent for 30 minutes, she said she hung up on him because she had to get back to work.
Irvine called her repeatedly throughout the day and left 17 profane and verbally abusive messages on her cell phone. Three of the messages were played for the jury Tuesday from Bowling’s phone.
At 5:30 p.m., she called the Richmond Police Department and asked that officers perform a welfare check on Irvine. The officer who responded did not find anyone at the house.
Later that day, after talking to Irvine’s mother, Bowling called 911 and said she was concerned Irvine was going to hurt her when she returned home. Two officers went to the home, and upon opening the door, found Irvine standing in the threshold holding two knives in the air, according to the officers’ testimony.
“When he came out, it was like like a Tasmanian Devil with all the screaming and knives,” RPD Officer Lydia Douglas said during her testimony Tuesday. She was one of the two officers who responded to the 911 call.
Police officers attempted to talk Irvine out of the home. During that time, he could be seen dousing the home in gasoline and a commotion was heard from inside the house, Douglas said.
At one point, Irvine went to the window and asked police to shoot and kill him, she said.
After about an hour, Irvine came out of the house and peacefully surrendered. He was calm at that time and talked to police officers in a normal manner, Douglas said, stating he was “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
Irvine also told another responding officer, Zachary Harris, that he didn’t want to hurt anyone but that his plan was to kill himself, according to the arrest citation.
Bowling’s testimony got emotional near the end of her time on the stand when Barker presented two letters she had written to Irvine while he was in jail after the incident.
While choking back tears, Bowling said the reason she wrote him was to get what happened off her chest and to let him know that she forgave him.
“In no way did I say ‘I’m going to be here waiting on you,’” she said. “... I hope he does better, but not with me.”
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6694.