; MAINTAINS INNOCENCE — (The Evansville Courier)

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The Evansville Courier

DAVE HOSICK, Courier staff writer

17 June 1997

Clarence Hogan can vividly recall his emotions when his truck radio informed him April 2 that a fire at an apartment building had claimed the lives of three people the previous night in Earlington, Ky.   “I remember I felt so sorry for the families of those people that died, and I remember thinking that no one deserves to go through what they did,” said Hogan, 43, of Evansville.   “I remember thinking, `My gosh. What a horrible way to die.’ ”

It was only a few days later that Hogan received the shocking news that his son, Christopher Hogan, was one of two 17-year-old boys arrested and charged with the slayings of Charles Wayne Blanchard, 41, and newlyweds Jimmy Ford, 28, and Stephanie Ford, 19. Christopher’s cousin, William Clarke, was also charged.

Christopher Hogan and Clarke will both be tried as adults on three counts of murder, arson and burglary. Both boys could face the death penalty if convicted.   “I was totally shocked when I found out about Christopher,” Clarence Hogan said. “I sat down on the couch and tried to put myself in everybody’s shoes. I have shed many tears, not just for my son but also for the newlyweds and the other man (who died in the fire).”

Clarence Hogan said he finally decided to speak out on his son’s behalf to tell people about Christopher’s troubled past — a childhood filled with learning disabilities and psychological problems that kept his son medicated most of his life.   “Christopher was a good boy and was nothing like the monster people are trying to make him out to be,” Clarence Hogan said. “He wanted to make something of his life and was never in trouble before except for some curfew violations.”

Clarence Hogan said his son was living with his maternal grandmother in Earlington when the fire destroyed the Victory Apartments. Christopher lived with his father only once, from July to October 1996, since he and his ex-wife divorced in the early 1980s.   Christopher’s mother, now living in New Mexico, had granted temporary guardianship to her mother, Clarence Hogan said.

“My son is a good boy but has some mental problems,” Clarence Hogan said. “He is a manic-depressive and has been suicidal. He’s been on medication all his life.”    Clarence Hogan said his son has been prescribed Prozac and Ritalin, and was taking it at the time of the fire.

Christopher was on a suicide watch at the Hardin County Juvenile Detention Center briefly since his arrest and has been very emotional while detained, Clarence Hogan said.  “The boys were being held in a room together but now are being constantly watched while they stay in a hallway,” Clarence Hogan said. “He tried to slice his wrists once already. He was in good spirits when I saw him Friday.”

Clarence Hogan said his son awaits his trial to prove his innocence.   “My son had nothing to do with this fire and was not anywhere near the fire when it was started,” Clarence Hogan said. “I asked him if he knew a fire was being set, and he said he didn’t and would have went in to put it out if he did.”

Clarence Hogan said questions still surround the fatal fire, but police refuse to continue investigating. He said at least three other people were at the building before the fire was set.   Clarence Hogan is working to get his son’s trial moved to Lexington or Louisville to ensure he will get a fair trial and he says he will support his son throughout the trial.   “I will be there every day to be behind him,” he said. “These two boys are facing death, and I will do anything to save my son. If I could take his place I would in a second.”