01/22/2012

Sheriff: Suicidal Ariz. couple wanted deputies dead

An Arizona couple who committed suicide last month planned to lure sheriff's deputies to their remote, desert home and kill as many as possible before ending their own lives

Associated Press

YUMA, Ariz. — An Arizona couple who committed suicide last month planned to lure sheriff's deputies to their remote, desert home and kill as many as possible before ending their own lives, a top local law enforcement official said, as an eerie series of videos the couple made was released this week.

Yuma County investigators found elaborate plans, both in writing and in video, in a blast-protected area after Jesse Lee and Diedre Firestone's Dome Valley home exploded Dec. 23 while surrounded by officers.

They had planned to blow up the house as a SWAT team entered, Capt. Eben Bratcher told the Yuma Sun. The couple's bodies were found in the home two days after the explosion. One deputy suffered minor injuries when the blast knocked him down.

"The motive behind their plan is not known, but it was clear they fully intended to murder as many deputies as possible prior to taking their own lives," Bratcher told the newspaper. "These people absolutely had a plan, and I think they wanted to die and make as big of a scene as they could possibly make."

In one of the videos released to the Yuma Sun, the couple are seen sitting on their balcony, calmly discussing what was about to happen while waiting for deputies to respond.

In another, Jesse Firestone, 65, shows a .357 magnum rifle he planned to use and the hole in the front door of the home he was going to fire through. He even mentions some sheriff deputies by name, saying "it's nothing personal. Anyway — adios."

Footage also shows a shrine the Firestones called the "Church of Death," which features a bible, two binders with hand-made covers entitled the "Firestone Gospel," and a picture of Osama bin Laden.

What is not known and may never be is if the explosion actually happened prematurely or if the Firestones changed their minds and decided not to go through with their plans, Bratcher said.

"This could have ended up horribly, and we are grateful none of our guys were seriously injured," Bratcher said. "It was one of those things you wouldn't have ever expected to happen in Yuma. It is insane. You read about this type of thing in the paper happening somewhere else."

Authorities drove to the home on the afternoon of Dec. 23 after a man called the sheriff's office and said he had just shot his ill wife. The man opened fire on arriving officers, and that's when the house blew up.

Before sheriff's officials arrived, Jesse Firestone in a video is seen standing inside his home using a cell phone to call 911 to report that he had just mercifully shot his wife, which was how they planned to lure deputies to their residence. According to that video, Diedre Firestone, 45, had been suffering from "self-diagnosed" breast cancer for the past 10 months, but refusing to get treatment.

"I got to go kill my dogs now," Jesse Firestone is seen saying before he hangs up the phone.

It took two days for a bomb squad to enter the home. They found the main bedroom and living room heavily damaged from the explosion and subsequent fire, with the roof caved in. They also located 15 five-gallon propane bottles near the two bodies. Two propane bottles appear to have bullet holes in them, possibly indicating the explosion was intentional.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press

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