The Kansas Supreme Court, on August 9, upheld the Wyandotte County conviction of Charles Bridges, who was convicted of second-degree murder in connection with the July 2004 death of Laura McCurley.
A Wyandotte County District Court jury, on April 17, 2008, found that Bridges, in the process of personally replacing a hot water heater in his home, left a natural gas pipe open, allowing gas to fill the residence. The next day, after Bridges left for work, his fiancée, McCurley, was severely injured by an explosion when she lit a cigarette upon waking. McCurley was home recuperating from a recent surgery. She died 11 days later, on July 27, 2004.
Kansas law provides that killing a person unintentionally, but recklessly, under circumstances showing extreme indifference to the value of human life, constitutes second-degree murder.
The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss, affirmed both the district court and the Kansas Court of Appeals, which had previously affirmed the trial court. The Supreme Court held that the district court’s evidentiary and legal rulings were correct, and that any error in the case was harmless.
In its opinion the court found: “Bridges gave varying and inconsistent explanations for the cause of the explosion. He eventually stated that before he left for work he checked the pipes due to a gas smell and instead of turning the valve off, he probably, by mistake turned it on.”
Bridges is serving a sentence of 9.75 years in prison.