CASS COUNTY, Texas. (KTAL/KMSS) – An East Texas man has been convicted for setting his ex-wife’s house on fire, stealing a firearm, trespassing, and making a false report to police.
According to the Cass County District Attorney’s Office, after two days of testimony, a jury found 64-year-old Larry Rolin Jurek guilty of felony arson, theft of a firearm, and the misdemeanor offenses of criminal trespass of a habitation, and false report to a police officer.
After the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the four charges, they assessed punishment at life in prison and a $10,000 fine, two years in state jail and a $10,000 fine, one year in county jail and a $4,000 fine, and 180 days in county jail and a $2,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the Cass County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the State Fire Marshall’s office. On February 7, 2019, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, Linden Volunteer Fire Department, and Centerhill Volunteer Fire Department were all called to a house fire.
The caller, Melanie Meyers, told officials that her ex-husband, Jurek, had set the house on fire. When officers arrived, Jurek told them that he “woke up to smoke, rolled out of bed, and crawled through the kitchen to the front door.” He later stated that he “woke up coughing and was hollering for his wife…and went all through the house.” When asked what had caused the fire, Jurek said that his ex-wife had put an oil lamp on the floor beside the bed so he could see in the dark because he had no electricity. He thought he kicked it over. He also said Meyers must have lit the oil lamp because he did not remember lighting it.
Melanie Meyers testified in the trial and she told the jury about her divorce and how she was afraid of Jurek. During the divorce, Meyers was awarded the trailer home where they had been living and all firearms that were in the home. Jurek had 14 days to leave the home and he refused to go.
On February 1, 2019, Meyers had the electricity to the home turned off in an attempt to force Jurek out of the home. A few days later, she had a criminal trespass warning served on him. Meyers received telephone calls in the days leading up to the fire from two of Jurek’s children asking if he had burned her house down yet. On Feb. 7 at 5:45 a.m., Larry Jurek knocked on Meyer’s door, who lived on the same property in a home with her sister, and told his ex-wife that she needed to call someone because the house was filled with smoke.
While talking to Larry Jurek on the scene, Cass County deputies noted that Jurek was fully dressed with pens in his shirt and a hat on his head. He also did not smell like smoke, but he claimed he had been inside the house three times to make sure no one was inside. Additionally, Jurek was certain that it was either 4:44 or 4:45 a.m. when he first left the house. He did not notify Meyers, and therefore emergency personnel, that the house was on fire until an hour later. Deputies also noted that Jurek’s Corvette, which was always parked outside his home, had been parked at the neighbor’s home. After arresting Jurek for trespassing, a lighter was found in his pocket.
A forensic scientist testified that samples obtained from the fire scene tested positive for an ignitable fluid. State Fire Marshall Paul Steelman testified that in his opinion the fire was intentional.
“Arson cases are often difficult cases to prove. Deputies that responded to the scene did an excellent job documenting the scene and asking the relevant questions which allowed us to prove that Larry Jurek was lying about how this fire started. The investigators also did a great job following up with search warrants and obtaining additional evidence to prove this case. We could not have secured a conviction without their hard work and dedication,” said Cass County Criminal District Attorney Courtney Shelton.
After finding him guilty, the jury heard from the defendant’s son, who testified that his father had been providing him pain killers and other narcotic medications from the time he was 13 years old up until he was about 30 years old. He stated his father had a bag full of prescription medications. He further testified about various fires that occurred throughout his life, and while he was not suspicious at the time, he now found suspicious.
Melanie Meyers also testified in the punishment phase. She testified about how Larry Jurek hated her dog and one day while she was inside their home and Jurek was leaving, she heard a screech. When she went outside, she found her dog shot through the chest. She also testified about him poisoning a dog and a cat. It was the cruelty to her animals, along with his addiction to painkillers, that finally caused her to leave him.
“We are very grateful to the jury for their guilty verdicts on the arson case and the additional charges. We also thank them for the life sentence they assessed after hearing the full story of this defendant’s long history of devious behavior – the callous neglect towards his children years ago, killing beloved family pets, and possible involvement in numerous other structure fires and getting away with it,” said Cass County First Assistant District Attorney Nick Ross.
“Jurek was a con man who didn’t care who he hurt or terrorized, and society is much safer with him behind bars.”