December 21, 2014

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Police investigating cause of massive gas leak at murder suspect’s home

Ryan Raider sits at his preliminary hearing with his attorney, Ross Haffey, on Oct. 17 in Avon Lake Municipal Court. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Ryan Raider sits at his preliminary hearing with his attorney, Ross Haffey, on Oct. 17 in Avon Lake Municipal Court. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

AVON — Police are investigating what caused a massive gas leak Friday at the Holly Lane home of murder suspect Ryan Raider, who is on house arrest while he is awaiting trial for allegedly shooting his roommate in the head last year.

In an affidavit accompanying a search warrant made public Monday, Avon police Detective Joe Novosielski wrote that Raider’s mother, Jody Raider, called Columbia Gas after smelling natural gas in the basement of her home.

Mark Pais, the service technician who responded, also smelled gas when he arrived and noticed that the meter was “spinning more rapidly than it should, which meant to him, based upon his training and experience, that there was a full blown gas line,” Novosielski wrote.

After disconnecting the gas service, Pais went inside to investigate and discovered that a tube connected to a pipe carrying gas to the furnace had been disconnected and was on the floor, the affidavit said.

Avon Fire Chief Frank Root III said firefighters were called out to the house at 10:07 a.m. Friday and spent between one-and-a-half and two hours ventilating the built-up gas. He said the level of gas in the house had actually reached the point where it was unlikely there would have been enough oxygen available to cause an explosion.

Root said the process of airing out the house raised the possibility of an explosion because of the introduction of additional oxygen. He said it was fortunate that the home’s furnace and hot water heater didn’t kick on during the gas leak.

“It was definitely a suspicious situation,” Root said.

He said it appeared the gas line to the furnace had been tampered with, an opinion Novosielski wrote was shared by Pais.

“Due to his experience, Pais stated that the drip tube could not have disconnected accidentally and would have to be removed intentionally using tools,” Novosielski wrote.

But Raider’s defense attorney, J. Ross Haffey, said Monday that his client and his family had not disconnected the pipe. He said the pipe was shaken loose by the problems with the furnace, which his clients weren’t aware was broken.

“They had a defective furnace, and that’s all it is,” Haffey said. “The police are involved in a witch hunt here.”

The affidavit said that Raider and his family, whom Root said weren’t injured, declined to speak to police on the advice of Haffey.

Avon police detectives did not return a call seeking comment, but county Prosecutor Dennis Will said police are investigating based on the information they have that the pipe was tampered with. He said even if that’s not the case, the cause of the gas leak needs to be determined to ensure public safety in the area.

The warrant also sought access to a gun safe in the basement so police could search for tools. Will said that Raider’s bond bars guns from being in the house, which his parents put up as collateral to secure his freedom before the trial in the murder case. To the best of his knowledge, Will said, investigators didn’t locate any guns in the gun safe.

But the warrant said police did seize the gas meter, pipes and numerous tools, including vise grip and channel lock pliers from the garage at the house.

Raider is facing aggravated murder and other charges for the Oct. 12 shooting death of his 29-year-old roommate, Brandon Smith, at the Avon apartment they shared.

Police have said that there was drinking before the shooting, which took place while Smith was in bed with his girlfriend. Raider has admitted to the shooting, saying the gun went off accidentally when he dropped it, according to court documents. A county grand jury concluded the shooting was intentional.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.