ALBIA — The candle that Barbara Pasa said she left lit before leaving the home on May 5, 2018, was not what started the fire at her home, an investigator said Friday.
Dave Linkletter, a special agent from the state’s fire marshal’s office, testified Friday that investigators determined it began in the master bedroom of the Pasa residence. Specifically, the fire began by some sort of open flame on the right side of the mattress, they said.
Barbara Pasa, 47, of Centerville, is on trial for first-degree murder and first-degree arson surrounding the death of her husband Tim Pasa at their home at 828 S. Park Ave. in Centerville.
Linkletter was called to investigate and aid in a search warrant that came two days following the fire. He said Friday that investigators determined the fire began on the right side of what was Barbara and Tim Pasa’s bed. Linkletter said firefighters who removed Tim Pasa said that he was on the right side of the bed.
Defense attorneys for Barbara Pasa established that Tim Pasa normally slept on the left side of the bed. During cross-examination, they attempted to re-establish the candle that was found on the floor at the left side of the bed as the source of the fire.
“The burn patterns don’t suggest that,” Linkletter said.
Defense attorney James Beres questioned whether the fire simply didn’t burn the left side, near the candle, because that side of the room lacked oxygen.
“It’s not necessarily about air,” Linkletter said. “It’s also about the radiation from the heat coming from the heat source.”
Investigators during their search located a Bic grill lighter in the bathroom adjacent to the bedroom on the counter. Linkletter said authorities did not detect the use of an accelerant. Absence of detection doesn’t necessarily mean accelerant wasn’t used, as fire can be bad enough to remove such evidence. Nor would there need to be an accelerant to start the fire seen in the bedroom, Linkletter said.
The jury also heard testimony from Dr. Kathy Lange, a family practitioner in Centerville. Lange knew Barbara Pasa in a work setting at one point but also had both Tim Pasa and Barbara Pasa as patients.
Tim Pasa battled high blood pressure and left shoulder pain that was being treated by Lange. He had a doctor’s appointment with her on May 3, 2018, two days before he died. There, Lange said, she increased the dosage amount of one of his blood pressure medications at that appointment. She also gave Tim Pasa a steroid shot in the shoulder joint and instructed him to have blood work done.
Beres questioned Lange on Barbara Pasa’s health conditions, including whether she was being treated for depression. Lange said she could not answer questions about her care, though, without first seeing her medical chart. That chart was not provided and the questions were left unanswered.
During the trial, Beres has suggested through questions to witnesses that Barbara Pasa’s lack of emotion observed by various witnesses could be explained by her taking medication for depression.
Court ended before noon Friday for the day, as the state’s last witness could not testify until Monday morning. The state is expected to rest their case against Barbara Pasa on Monday, and the defense can begin to call their witnesses. The state would then have the opportunity to offer rebuttal testimony before the case would proceed to closing arguments and then be handed to the jury.
Prior to Friday, Dustin Bozwell, a neighbor to the Pasa household and a co-worker with Barbara Pasa, testified about the accessibility she would have had to propofol, the drug that was ruled the cause of Tim Pasa’s death.
Bozwell, who is a nurse anesthetist, said the medication is “wasted” when unused in a bin in the operating room. Containers or syringes, at times containing 20 milliliters of the drug, are disposed of in the bins. Those bins are in the open in the room and can easily be reached in to.
Additionally, Bozwell testified, Barbara Pasa was a circulating nurse and part of the duties of a circulating nurse are taking the contents of the bins to the janitor staff so the wasted drugs can be disposed of.
While Bozwell would write down the amount used and wasted, there is no further accounting of the drug, he said, to ensure it’s ultimately disposed of.
At room temperature, propofol can begin to grow bacteria however the drug doesn’t lose its effectiveness if that happens, Bozwell said. Propofol can be injected through any gauge of needle, even one used by diabetics for insulin, Bozwell said in response to a question from Beres.
Bozwell also visited Barbara Pasa at her mother’s home the night of May 5, 2018, to offer condolences. There, she spoke about the candle she had set out potentially being the cause of the fire.
“I found it upsetting that, if that [the candle] had been the cause of the fire, I found it upsetting that Barbara didn’t feel guilty in having a hand in starting the fire,” Bozwell said.
Bozwell lived nearby the home but had left about 5:30 a.m. that morning. Barbara Pasa sent him a text as he left, asking if he was being called out on a call. Bozwell said Barbara Pasa was able to see if he was coming or going and would commonly ask if he was being called into work to gauge if she might be, as well.