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Nail Salon Operator Found Guilty Of Murder And Arson In Deadly Kansas City Blaze

Laura Ziegler
KCUR 89.3 file photo
The scene the morning after the building on Independence Avenue collapsed.

The woman accused of starting a blaze that killed two Kansas City firefighters in 2015 was found guilty of murder, arson and assault in Jackson County Circuit Court on Monday morning.

Judge Joel Fahnestock handed down the verdicts against Thu Hong Nguyen in a packed courtroom, finding her guilty of all but one of seven charges. She found Nguyen not guilty of the first count of causing a catastrophe, causing onlookers to gasp. But then she reeled off guilty findings on the other six charges, convicting Nguyen of two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree arson and two counts of second-degree assault.

L&N Nails, an Independence Avenue nail salon that Nguyen operated, burned down in October 2015. Prosecutors accused Nguyen of igniting chemicals in the salon’s back storage room, starting the blaze that ripped through two floors of the apartments above. Firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh died when, while fighting the fire, a brick wall collapsed on top of them.

One of the arson counts related to a 2013 fire in another nail salon that Nguyen operated in Lee’s Summit. And prosecutors presented evidence that Nguyen had set fires and collected insurance money in connection with four other nail salon fires in Texas and Missouri. 

Family members and friends of the two fallen firefighters, who had sat through the trial, sobbed and hugged one another in the courtroom after hearing the verdicts. 

Missy Leggio, Larry Leggio’s wife, thanked prosecutors and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the main investigative agency in the case, for their work over the last three years.

Missy Leggio, the wife of fallen firefighter Larry Leggio, hugs friends outside of the Jackson County courtroom.
Credit Sophia Tulp / KCUR

“It answers a lot of questions that we’ve all had deep down in our heart and has lifted a little bit of weight off our chest to where we can finally continue on with our healing process,” Missy Leggio told reporters outside of the courtroom.

Jim Mesh, John Mesh’s brother, said, “It’s been a long couple of years. We’re happy with the outcome.”

Nguyen was led away from the court in handcuffs. She's scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 14.

Sophia Tulp is a KCUR news intern. Follow her on Twitter @sophia_tulp.

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