US~Observer investigation reveals there is now
ample evidence to dismiss these criminal charges.
By Joseph Snook
As lightning struck the Gold Creek Loop of Okanogan County, WA. in 2014, several homes burnt to the ground. In total, over 300 homes were lost in what was deemed the Carlton Complex Fire of 2014. According to Wikipedia, “The Carlton Complex Fire was a massive wildfire in north central Washington which burned 256,108 acres during the 2014 Washington wildfire season. It began on July 14, 2014 as four separate lightning-caused fires in the Methow Valley which merged into one by July 18.” Keith Holbrook was one of the residents who lost his home in the fire. Fortunately for Keith and his wife, Theda, they had their Daughters to stay with after losing their retirement home.
Wistfully, everything they had acquired during their forty-seven-year marriage was gone. As Keith and Theda slowly started to rebuild their life, they moved to Wenatchee and started looking for another home. Within a year of the fire, Keith, who’s a 100% disabled and heavily decorated Vietnam War Veteran, suffered a stroke. His brain, which was already damaged from shrapnel that is still lodged in his head from Vietnam, hemorrhaged during the stroke which required emergency surgery. While recovering at the hospital, Keith hit another low. A warrant was issued for his arrest. As if things couldn’t get any worse, his surgery revealed that he had one more BIG problem – Keith also had a large tumor in his brain.
Detective Sloan’s Corruption
Keith was being charged with felony arson – for allegedly burning his own home down the year prior, during the Carlton Complex Fire. The local Sheriff’s department had determined that Keith burned his home down with the use of an incendiary device. There was one big problem with that theory – no incendiary device was ever found. Furthermore, Detective Kreg Sloan led the so-called “investigation.” Detective Sloan has a past full of lies and incompetence, which has caused other case(s) he’s investigated to be dismissed with PREJUDICE. In fact, Det. Sloan found no solid evidence that Keith had burned his home down whatsoever, other than his fabricated and highly speculative investigation. As Keith put it – he was being framed. This writer’s investigation revealed convincing evidence that aligns with Keith’s belief that he was framed.
Neighbor Speculation Promotes False Charges?
Keith’s neighbors, JaLea (Garnet) and Greg (Gregory) Swezey, who were reportedly contracted gunsmiths for the same Sheriff’s Department which employs Det. Sloan, were also reportedly involved in Keith’s arrest. They allegedly claimed that Keith had set his home up to burn during the Carlton Complex Fire. According to the Seattle Times, the Swezeys were once charged with murdering their own son for refusing to give him necessary medical treatment because of religious beliefs. Now, the Swezey’s are reportedly potential State’s witnesses. Keith was shocked to learn that not only did the Swezeys contact law enforcement, they also reportedly called Keith’s homeowners insurance company. Keith believes that his gun collection was a big influence for the Swezey’s reports. Out of over 100 guns in his home when he was last at his property, only 30 were recovered from the ashes. Having previously “caught the Swezeys trespassing” on his land, Keith believes that they may have helped frame him. According to people who know Holbrook, The Sheriff’s gunsmiths were reportedly aware of his extensive gun collection, making them suspect.
One of Keith’s neighbors noticed that Det. Sloan, the lead investigator into the arson charges against Keith, was on Keith’s land before the fire occurred. Even Sloan’s own report claims that he was there, attempting to evacuate Keith and his wife, but Keith wasn’t home. Detective Sloan also stated in his report that he went inside Keith’s home without an invitation or warrant, while Keith was gone. Detective Sloan claimed to have smelled a strong presence of fuel coming from a large tarp, located next to several 55-gallon barrels of oil on Keith’s property. According to Sloan’s report, this evidence was likely a contributing factor to the fire. Sloan took a small sample of soil, next to several pieces of heavy machinery, including a snow plow, truck, and other heavy equipment that required the use of fuel to operate. The soil tested positive for the presence of fuel. The only problem with the soil sample was that Keith said the ground area at that location likely has gasoline present – that’s where he fuels up his equipment. Nonetheless, Sloan’s report suggests that the strong presence of fuel, combined with the positive soil sample was enough for the arrest. What Sloan’s report failed to mention is that the 55-gallon barrels of oil, the tarps with the strong presence of fuel and the ground where the soil sample was taken – DIDN’T EVEN BURN during the fire! Det. Sloan had effectively just ruined his own investigation. Either way, the so-called evidence didn’t support Sloan’s claims, according to multiple expert investigators.
“The findings of Detective Sloan are
NOT IN ANY WAY supported by documented and reliable data…”
– Anne Minden, Expert Arson Investigator & Retired Law Enforcement Professional
The most evident part of Detective Sloan’s botched investigation was when two expert arson investigators easily picked apart his innuendo filled report. Both experts agreed that Detective Sloan wasn’t even qualified to handle an arson investigation at that time. His training was not up to par with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), or National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) – the governing bodies that set the arson investigation rules for the United States. Det. Sloan stated that Holbrook used an incendiary device to burn his own home down, yet there was never any incendiary device found. No fire ignition devices were found by Sloan, or either expert, yet Sloan still claims that’s how the fire started, despite several other homes being burnt by the Carlton Complex Fire in that same area. It didn’t matter that lightning strikes were evident, causing multiple fires, nor did it matter that Holbrook was hours away from his residence when it burned. Anne Minden, one of the experts who investigated the fire stated in her qualified opinion, “The findings of Detective Sloan are NOT IN ANY WAY supported by documented and reliable data to a degree that a determination of the fire origin or cause can be reliably established.” She stated her investigation led to findings that make “Detective Sloan’s conclusions wholly unreliable and suspect to both expectation bias and confirmation bias…” Describing the likely cause of fire, Minden stated in her report that the, “Carlton Complex Fire could have potentially deposited firebrands in the vicinity of the Holbrook residence in a reasonable timeframe prior to ignition.”
“Detective Sloan is not qualified as a ‘Fire Investigator’
under NFPA 1033, and may not testify as an expert witness.”
-John Scrivner, Certified Fire & Explosion Investigator (CFEI)
John Scrivner, another fire investigation expert (licensed in 5 states), who investigated the scene stated, “First… A conclusion that the fire was “possibly” incendiary, with NO PHYSICAL evidence as to origin or cause, or what was the exact ignition source, leads to the proper conclusion that the “cause is undetermined.” He continued, “Second, Detective Sloan’s conclusion that this fire was incendiary is NOT SUPPORTED BY THE EVIDENCE.” Calling Detective Sloan’s ability to conduct an arson investigation into full question, Investigator Scrivner stated, “Detective Sloan is not qualified as a ‘Fire Investigator’ under NFPA 1033, and may not testify as an expert witness. He is expressly prohibited from determining cause and origin of this fire pursuant to NFPA 1033.” He further explained that the fire which burned Keith’s home to the ground, “cannot be concluded that the fire was ‘arson caused.’” Both Expert Investigators, Scrivner and Minden had much more to say in their reports that coincided with Keith Holbrook’s innocence.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had crews fighting the fire by Keith’s residence. Prior to Keith’s home being engulfed with flames, Keith noticed several firefighters, “standing around, watching the fire burn while they played cards one afternoon.” Keith and his wife Theda stopped their vehicle to voice their concerns with the firemen who were not working. It is Keith’s belief that this likely caused some of the fire crew to go along with Detective Sloan’s theory that Keith burnt his home down. Not one witness saw Keith do anything criminal, but a few crew members supposedly provided speculative narratives that would lead someone not concerned with facts to possibly point their finger at Keith. Nonetheless, there’s not one single person from DNR who can say they saw anything criminal, which was evident in Detective Sloan’s own report. Keith fully believes that the DNR crew, comprised of some “convicted felons” had it in for him for calling them out about not fighting the fires. Nonetheless, these supposed witnesses of Det. Sloan now live out of state. These same witnesses have never been formally deposed to confirm what was stated by Det. Sloan in his report. Thus, the so-called DNR witnesses could have had their narrative completely fabricated or altered by Det. Sloan, which “should not be ruled out” according to one local attorney who claimed, “Detective Sloan lies often.”
Another questionable piece of evidence against Holbrook was a sign he hung at the entry gate to his driveway that read, “Danger – Explosives.” There’s no question that Keith collected firearms, and, has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease from Vietnam, which has required him to use an oxygen tank for long term therapy since the 1980’s. Guns, ammo and oxygen tanks are not a good combination with fire – which is why Keith explained the necessity for that sign.
Keith stated, “If I wanted to burn down my 3500 square ft. house, why would I only have $150k coverage on over $800k (Home and personal property) of assets?” A highly qualified person involved with Keith’s case stated, “If the strong smell of fuel from the tarps and oil barrels on his property contributed to the fire, as alleged by Detective Sloan’s report, why didn’t they burn along with the house? If Keith used an incendiary device to start the fire – where is it? If he wanted to burn his collectible cards, coins, guns and stamps, he would surely have increased his insurance coverage beforehand, not to mention the $60k he and his wife had just spent renovating their kitchen prior to the lightning strikes that caused over 300 homes to burn.” A close acquaintance of Keith’s voiced frustration with our criminal justice system. That person stated, “Keith has never been arrested in his entire life, and this is the thanks he gets for what he’s done for this country?”
Keith Holbrook, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient who survived Vietnam and lost almost a million-dollar home has been falsely targeted. The exact reason is not even known, but it is evident that someone has it out for Mr. Holbrook. Holbrook’s home turned into a pile of ashes, he suffered a stroke, he suffered congestive heart failure, he suffered a large tumor, and now he endures nearly five years of wrongful felony arson charges… It’s a miracle that Keith is even alive today.
Keith was initially provided one insurance payment of $60k after the loss of his home. That money went straight to Keith’s first attorney who reportedly told Keith, “You’d better put that into my account before they take it back.” Keith has now spent well over $100k of personal and borrowed money on legal fees.
It is unclear if Keith is still being sued by Country Insurance Company, who insured his home at the time it burnt down. One source stated that Keith filed a lawsuit against Country Ins., which he claims to have later dismissed, and in return, Country Ins. was supposed to refrain from, or dismiss their counter-suit against the Holbrook’s. According to sources close to Mr. Holbook, Country Insurance currently reserves the right to sue Keith.
The legal fees unfortunately must be paid if Keith is to fight for what little semblance of freedom he has left. Keith’s case was originally Prosecuted by former Okanogan County Prosecutor Karl Sloan (Detective Sloan’s Brother). It was handed off to Branden Platter, who temporarily took over as prosecutor before being ousted as prosecutor in a recent election.
Now, Arian Noma, the newly elected and reportedly “reform-minded” prosecutor has had several months to review this case since taking office. Noma inherited this case along with numerous others involving corrupted Detective Kreg Sloan, which is obviously the reason why each case needs to be heavily scrutinized. As of the date this article was published it was reported that a new prosecutor, Mathew Salter, has been assigned to Mr. Holbrook’s case. It was also reported that Country Insurance wants to sue Mr. Holbrook which is partly why his charges have not been dismissed. One person associated with this case said, “If the government can’t produce a wrongful conviction, Country’s ability to successfully sue would likely be more difficult. Keith can’t be forced to trial. His charges deserve to be dismissed and he should sue those who have damaged him. Unfortunately, Keith spent everything he has left defending himself against lies. His health, costs, and timing would make it too costly for him to sue.”
Keith Holbrook has lost almost everything except for his life and wife. He’s been deemed incompetent to stand trial as he suffers from dementia. Many highly qualified Psychiatrists have examined Keith and have stated he can’t assist in his own defense. Furthermore, Washington State case history shows that arson charges involving dementia have previously been dismissed.
Editor’s Note: The US~Observer appreciates those who helped provide information on behalf of Mr. Holbrook. Without support by many in his community, Keith would likely be incarcerated or dead. Fortunately for Mr. Holbrook, he’s one tough Veteran! If you have any information regarding those mentioned in the article, the US~Observer would like to hear from you. Please email: email@example.com or call 541-474-7885. Thank you!