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Alleged Hit Man Cleared of Firebomb Murders

May 23, 1990

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ An alleged hit man for a drug dealer was cleared of murder in the firebombing deaths of six people.

A jury, brought in from St. Louis because of publicity surrounding the case, deliberated four hours Tuesday before acquitting 33-year-old James A. Skinner in the 1989 blaze at a Kansas City home.

Members of four generations of a family, including three children and an invalid, were killed in the fire. Seven other family members, including the drug dealer’s target, escaped.

The dealer, Aaron O. Frazier, testified he paid $150 to Skinner and two other men to firebomb the house in a feud with a member of the family. Three of Frazier’s friends also testified he hired Skinner to burn the house.

Assistant Prosecutor Joseph P. Bednar Jr. said jurors told him after the trial there were too many inconsistencies in the witnesses’ stories to believe them.

Frazier and the others differed over whether the bomb was thrown from Skinner’s car and whether the arsonists had walked to the house.

Frazier testified as part of a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty.

Skinner told police he was home in bed on the night of the fire. He did not testify.

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