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Girl testifies dad started apartment fire while cooking pot wax

By Cole Waterman/The Bay City Times (TNS) • Jul 4, 2018 at 6:00 PM

BAY CITY — Rather than accept a plea offer, a Bay City dad instead watched his daughter testify about how he set fire to their home while producing marijuana wax, giving her severe burns in the process.

The 10-year-old girl took to the witness stand Tuesday morning during the preliminary examination of Oscar I. Tejada II, 43.

Before the hearing began, Bay County Assistant Prosecutor Bernard J. Coppolino said his office extended an offer that if Tejada were to plead guilty to second-degree child abuse, he would agree not to seek an enhanced sentence and would not issue additional charges. Tejada rejected the offer, prompting Coppolino to revoke it before calling Tejada's daughter as a witness.

The girl said on the afternoon of May 6, she was inside the first-floor apartment she shared with her dad and brother. Her dad was in his bedroom as she played a game in the living room, she said. Her 14-year-old brother wasn't home at the time.

"I heard a boom and I heard all the windows break," the girl said. "I turned around and I saw a flame. It was like on the carpet behind me."

The girl said she freaked out and ran outside to get help.

"My feet got burnt," she said. "I don't know when it happened. I did walk back in the house once — I don't know if it was from that."

The girl suffered second-degree burns on both of her feet.

Coppolino asked her if she knew what her dad was doing in his bedroom.

"He was cooking," she replied. "He was making marijuana or something like that. He was making, I think it's called wax."

She said she knew this as she had walked by his room.

"I don't like to be in the same room with him when he does it," she added.

As his daughter testified, a shackled and orange jumpsuit-clad Tejada sat silently beside attorney Bruce K. Mannikko.

Tejada escaped the burning apartment by breaking out a window and getting assistance from other civilians, the girl said. She added her dad has fed her marijuana products in the past.

"I usually eat some at night because it helps me sleep," she said.

She added her dad's cooking of marijuana wax led to a fire before the May 6 incident. Tejada used powder to quell the blaze, she said.

People would often stop by their house to buy marijuana products from her dad, the girl said.

After the girl testified, Coppolino called Brenda L. Snider to the witness stand. She testified she had been driving near the home on the afternoon of May 6.

"I heard a little girl screaming like a blood-curdling scream," Snider said. "I looked to my left and I seen her standing by a window screaming, 'Dad, stop! Dad, stop!'"

Snider said she had seen a man, whom she identified as Tejada, hanging out of a window with a tank in his hand. An explosion occurred and flames were behind him, she said.

Snider stopped her vehicle and she and others ran to the burning house, she said. She spotted a little boy standing nearby and put him in her van, at about which time another explosion transpired, she said.

After Snider's testimony completed, Bay City Public Safety Detective Richard Roberts testified he conducted an arson investigation in the matter. The investigation indicated the fire began in Tejada's bedroom, he said.

During his investigation, Roberts interviewed Tejada three times. The first time was within a day or two of the fire and took place at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, where Tejada had been taken for treatment of his own burns.

"He indicated he was cooking food, frying chicken in a pan in on electric stovetop in his bedroom," Roberts said.

Roberts again interviewed Tejada on May 24 at Bay City facility where Tejada was undergoing rehabilitation.

"He told me that it was the chicken that started the fire," Roberts said. "And then, a little while later ... he told me he was using butane and was making butane hash oil at the time of the fire."

With testimony ended, Coppolino asked Bay County District Judge Timothy J. Kelly to add single counts of manufacturing marijuana and delivery of marijuana. Kelly obliged the request.

Coppolino then asked Tejada's case be bound over to Circuit Court for trial, a request Kelly also granted.

Tejada remains in the Bay County Jail. His trial date is pending.

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