North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

June 13, 2013

Updated: Curtis Thornton found guilty of Warrior, Ensley arson cases

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

BIRMINGHAM — Curtis Thornton, the Warrior man who served on the Birmingham Police Department, has been found guilty of four counts of second-degree arson and two lesser charges.

A Jefferson Circuit Court jury of nine women and three men took about two and a half hours Thursday afternoon to convict Thornton on all six counts.

Thornton, 28, had been charged with setting fire to several different structures, four of which were located in the Dana Road neighborhood where he lived with his then-fiancée. Two others were houses in Ensley, where Thornton worked out of the BPD West Precinct. All of the incidents took place in April and May of 2012.

Thornton’s trial began on Monday morning, with testimony concluding Wednesday afternoon.

In closing arguments on Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Joe Roberts depicted the defendant as a pyromaniac, recalling testimony of how Thornton said, “Ain’t it pretty?” to a Warrior police sergeant responding to a fire call.

Roberts opened his argument with the line, “If there’s smoke, there’s fire. And if there’s fire, there’s the defendant,” referring to testimony that Thornton was seen at all of the scenes of the fires, and had personally reported most to police. He was convicted of trying to set fire to the house where he and his children were living with Bobbie Mayfield, to whom he was engaged to be married at the time. He also set fire to a trailer and a tool shed nearby.

Mayfield testified that Thornton set fire to a stack of Thrifty Nickel newspapers under their home. Thornton denied that on the witness stand, saying that a neighbor did it, but a Warrior Police detective also testified that he quickly ruled that neighbor out of any wrongdoing after questioning.

Thronton’s legal counsel said that their client originally lived in Tuscaloosa, and he and his children moved in with Mayfield after the April 2011 tornadoes ripped through that city.

Mayfield’s father, Godfrey Chryssoverges, owned two of the homes that were burned by Thornton, and testified for the prosecution in the trial.

“It was extremely difficult,” Chryssoverges said about hearing the testimony of Thornton’s crimes. “He was actually starting to become a part of my family. I just cannot believe the level of deception. But it’s over with and done.”

“I feel sorry for the man, but I feel more sorry for his children and his family,” Chryssoverges added.

Mayfield also testified that Thornton bragged to her about burning houses in Ensley that he believed were used by vagrants using drugs, telling how he set fire to curtains and similar materials that would start burning slowly. A former Birmingham Police Department colleague of Thornton’s has also been charged in those arson cases, as well as a third man who was not a law enforcement officer. (Those two men are to be tried later this year.)

Thornton is also being held on unspecified child pornography charges, believed to be related to material found on his computer during the investigation of the arson charges. That matter has been bound over to the grand jury, where it awaits one or more indictments.

Two of the four arson charges were for houses on Dana Road, and the other two were from Ensley. Thornton was also convicted one count of attempted second degree arson and one count of first degree criminal mischief — the latter for burning a shed behind one of the houses on Dana Road.

The case was unusual for jurors in that Circuit Judge Clyde Jones allowed them to directly question witnesses, instead of having to rely on those posed by the opposing attorneys. They all declined comment after the trial, except for one who said about the chance to ask questions, “It was great!”

Sentencing is scheduled for July 25. Thornton could receive as much as 20 years in prison for each of the arson charges.