Co-defendants testify in fatal meth fire trial
BY BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Two defendants who are charged in connection with a fire that claimed a Tulsa baby’s life testified Wednesday at the trial of another defendant.
Jeffrey Wayne McBride, 48,is accused of causing the blaze by cooking methamphetamine and is on trial on counts of “felony murder,” first-degree arson and manufacturing a controlled dangerous substance.
Tulsa County prosecutors charged McBride, Jacob A. Bell and Jennifer Michelle Jennings with acting in concert with each other and causing the death of Jennings’ son, Ayden Jennings, by committing arson in the process of manufacturing meth on Nov. 10, 2011.
Ayden, who was almost 15 months old, was found dead in a back bedroom after an early morning fire at a duplex in the 1400 block of West Admiral Boulevard.
Investigators said they found meth-lab components in the burned duplex.
A medical examiner determined that the cause of Ayden’s death was complications of smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.
A jury was seated and testimony began Wednesday in District Judge Kurt Glassco’s court for a trial of McBride alone.
In an opening statement, Assistant District Attorney John Salmon said evidence will point to McBride as the person who was cooking meth in the duplex that night.
Bell, 36, and Jennings, 27, who said they were boyfriend and girlfriend, were the first two prosecution witnesses.
Bell testified that the defendants used meth at the residence prior to the fire.
He said he had seen McBride cook meth previously via the “shake and bake” method and said McBride taught him how to cook it.
Bell testified that McBride showed up at Bell’s Admiral Place residence around 2 a.m. and that all three defendants used meth.
Bell indicated that later that morning, he saw McBride in the kitchen, engaged in a procedure that he associated with meth cooking.
Bell said he later smelled smoke and noticed that the “ceiling was full of smoke.”
He said he tried to get Ayden out of the boy’s back room but could not do so because of the fire and smoke.
Jennings said it was “pitch dark” and "nothing but a wall of flames."
In his cross-examinations, defense attorney Gregg Graves, representing McBride, has pointed out that Bell and Jennings have previously lied about events in the case.
Jennings said she is hoping for “justice for my son.”
In a separate case, McBride was sentenced this month to 25 years in prison for another methamphetamine crime.
McBride pleaded guilty in December to a charge of endeavoring to manufacture or possess meth on Nov. 12, 2011 — two days after the fatal fire — at a residence in the 1000 block of North College Avenue. He got a 25-year prison term in that case.
Jeffrey Wayne McBride
Jacob A. Bell
Jennifer Michelle Jennings