Prosecution seeks 89 years in Mesh, Leggio Arson Death

By Michael Bushnell and Paul Thompson

Prosecutors have released a 31-page memorandum requesting a sentence of 89 years for convicted arsonist Thu Hong Nguyen.

On July 23, 2018, Nguyen was found guilty by Judge Joel P. Fahnestock of six counts related to a October 12, 2015 fire that resulted in the deaths of Kansas City firefighters John Mesh and Larry Leggio. The fire also caused substantial injuries to fellow firefighters Chris Anderson and Dan Werner, who continue to attempt to put their lives back together following the tragic blaze.

As part of the State’s sentencing memorandum, family members of Larry Leggio and John Mesh described their feelings of loss in the wake of the tragedy.

“Everyone lost someone that night,” wrote Leggio’s wife Missy. “Larry’s mother lost a son. Larry’s brother and sister lost their baby brother. Larry’s nieces and nephew lost their uncle. And I lost my husband. We all lost our future to live out all our days and dreams and to make more memories.”

Members of the Mesh family also contributed to the sentencing memorandum. Adriana Mesh, John Mesh’s eldest daughter, described the effect of the loss on her family.

“We will never have the comfort of our dad being there in our lives anymore,” she said. “All because of a woman who started a fire in her nail salon and wanted the good guys to come clean up her mess.”

“He should have been at my graduation that year,” Adriana added. “Instead, he couldn’t physically be there so I reserved a spot for him. An empty chair, with nothing but a picture frame for him. And that’s what my little sisters will have to do too, for the rest of our lives.”

Firefighters Chris Anderson and Dan Werner, both severely injured that night, also provided strong statements in support of the prosecution’s requested sentence. Anderson described the heartbreak of watching his friends and colleagues pulled out of the rubble while he suffered from a litany of his own injuries, which have led to a dependence on alcohol and medications in an effort to suppress the many resulting symptoms.

“I watched as two of my brothers’ lifeless and broken bodies were pulled from beside me, and another was unburied and transported to the hospital with significant injuries,” Anderson wrote.

Werner also wrote eloquently about the ever-present trauma that continues to loom over his life, nearly three years after the deadly fire. Werner noted that he also lives with physical aches and pains, though that isn’t the worst of it.

“It’s the nightmares that still come and go, it’s the restless nights and the unexplainable waves of depression that come on without warning. It’s the memories and sadness I feel when I think about the two friends that were lost that day,” Werner wrote. “And for what? This senseless crime has affected so many lives in so many different ways.”

In addition to the multiple life-altering injuries suffered by Werner and Anderson, the suicide of firefighter Danny Rapp outside Station 17 is partially attributed to the defendant’s actions the night of October 12, 2015. Rapp, a 28-year KCFD veteran worked the same truck and shift as Leggio and was deeply distressed after the fire.

Noting a motive of greed, a lack of remorse on behalf of the defendant and the repeated insurance payouts to Nguyen for previous fires in Lee’s Summit, Grandview, two salons in Texas, and a house fire in the Historic Northeast, the state is recommending a sentence of 89 years in prison to be meted out as follows:
• 30 years each on Counts III and IV, for the murders of firefighters John Mesh and Larry Leggio, to run consecutive to each other;
• 7 years each on Counts V and VI, for the assaults on firefighters Chris Anderson and Dan Werner, to run consecutive to each other and to Counts III and IV;
• 30 years on Count II, for the Arson in the First degree that caused the deaths of firefighters Leggio and Mesh and the injuries to firefighters Warner and Anderson, to run concurrent with Counts III through VI; and
• 15 years on Count VII, for the separate fire at Nails USA set two years earlier in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, to run consecutive to Counts II through VI.

Nguyen’s sentencing is scheduled for Friday September 21 at 1:30 in Division 9 in the Jackson County Courthouse. Family members of the victims, as well as ATF Agent Ryan Zornes and ATF Financial Examiner Nikki Poirier, are expected to offer testimony at the sentencing.

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