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Orrick man facing jury trial for arson-related deaths of his children

March 9, 2018 – A jury trial for an Orrick father began this week in a Clay County courtroom, where he has been charged with the murder of his two sons in 2013.

Randy Michael Garrison, 35, was present with his counsel in a Division 4 courtroom in Clay County when the jury trial began Monday, March 5. Garrison faces five charges relating to the deaths of his two sons after a fire at his home claimed their lives in December 2013. Garrison has continued to claim he is innocent of all five charges.

Garrison faces two charges of felony murder in the second degree, two felony charges of abandonment of a child in the first degree, and one felony count of arson in the first degree, where an injury or death was the result of a fire explosion in attempt to manufacture methamphetamine. Combined, the five charges—three Class A and two Class B felonies—carry a maximum sentence of 120 years to life in prison.

Nearly two weeks before Christmas, on the afternoon of Dec. 10, 2013, Ray County 911 received a phone call reporting a house fire in Orrick, on the 9600 block of Shach Creek Rd. Several area fire departments responded to the blaze, and it was ultimately extinguished. The bodies of Roger Wayne Garrison, 3, and nearly two-year-old Ashton Michael Garrison, were discovered in the home. The boys’ mother, Tamara Dawn Willis, was not home at the time of the fire, according to authorities.

In the investigation that followed, Garrison’s account of the events leading up to the fire changed repeatedly, and his injuries were inconsistent with his telling of events.

During interviews with police, Garrison claimed that he returned home around 6 a.m. the morning of Dec. 10, 2013, after work. Once home, Garrison said that he went to bed and woke up to his children screaming. Garrison, discovering the home was on fire, ran down the hallway and tripped on a bungee cord securing a baby gate at the children’s bedroom. Upon tripping, Garrison said he fell face first into the fire and was unable to open his eyes until he got outside the residence.

According to Garrison’s statement to Detective Greg Martin, criminal investigator with Missouri State Highway Patrol’s division of Drug and Crime Control, Garrison attempted to punch his way through the exterior sheathing of the home once he was outside, to gain entry into the children’s room, from where he believed the screams were coming. He was unsuccessful.

Authorities later interviewed the boys’ mother, Tamara Willis.

Willis said she accidentally overslept on Dec. 10 and was late for an appointment she had that morning. She woke Garrison up, at which point he smoked a cigarette, and let their dog out. When Willis left, she claimed the children were asleep in the living room on the couch, where she left them because they had been sick.

In continued interviews with authorities, multiple first responders made statements that differed from Garrison’s claims about that morning.

3-year-old Roger Wayne Garrison, left, and 20-month-old Ashton Michael Garrison, right, died in a fire Dec. 10, 2013 at their home in Orrick. Their father, Randy Michael Garrison, has been charged with second degree murder, child abandonment and arson, in relation to their deaths. Garrison’s trial began Monday, March 5. (File photos)

One first responder stated that Garrison was wearing a white T-shirt that was still white when they made contact with him. None of Garrison’s clothing was burnt, and he had a first degree burn on the left side of his neck, equivalent to a sun burn. An EMT who treated Garrison, said he was not having trouble breathing and his lungs sounded clear. Another EMT said that Garrison did not appear to have any burns to his feet, body or clothing.

A firefighter who battled the blaze said that there was no evidence of a hole on the exterior of the home where the children’s room was located. All of the accounts from first responders were inconsistent with Garrison’s account of events that occurred inside the house during the fire.

Leading up to the trial that began this week, the Garrison case has seen multiple changes in counsel, as well as a change of venue.

Initially, after the incident occurred, Garrison was charged with two counts of first degree child abandonment, Class B felonies, in March 2014.

In June 2016, prosecutors refiled charges against Garrison, adding two felony charges of second degree murder and a single felony count of arson in the first degree, all Class A felonies.

In December 2016, prosecutors requested a change of venue, and the case was reassigned to Clay County.

Garrison has been held in Clay County Detention Center on a $250,000 cash-only bond.

As of press time, the trial was still in progress and the verdict had not been delivered by the jury. The Standard will continue to follow the trial and post updates as they become available to our website, ESStandard.com.

By Brittany Zegers • zegers@leaderpress.com

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