Michael Pierce Pennsylvania Death Row

michael pierce

Michael Pierce was sentenced to death by the State of Pennsylvania for a fatal arson that would kill three people. According to court documents Michael Pierce would set two fires in his family home killing his mother and grandfather. Pierce father would die six months later from injuries sustained in the fire. Michael Pierce would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.

Michael Pierce 2021 Information

Parole Number: 7170W
Age: 65
Date of Birth: 08/01/1956
Race/Ethnicity: WHITE
Height: 5′ 11″
Gender: MALE
Citizenship: USA
Complexion: LIGHT
Current Location: PHOENIX

Permanent Location: PHOENIX
Committing County: PHILADELPHIA

Michael Pierce More News

The evidence presented in the instant case established that at approximately 3:00 a.m. on the morning of July 10, 1989, Joan Pierce, the appellant’s sister, was awakened by the strong smell of gasoline. Joan woke her father, George Pierce, and the two of them descended the stairs to discover the living room sofa on fire. George Pierce opened the basement door and flames then shot forth, forcing them to flee the house. George re-entered the house in an attempt to rescue his wife and mother-in-law. George was unable to reach the stairs and collapsed inside. He was pulled out of the flaming building by neighbors who had been awakened by the fire.

George was taken from the scene to a hospital where he was treated for burns and smoke inhalation. Eventually he was transferred to a nursing home where he died six months later from complications due to smoke inhalation and bronchopneumonia. Appellant’s mother, Mary Pierce and her ninety-five-year-old mother, Anna Hayes, were pronounced dead at the scene, with the cause of death later determined to be smoke and soot inhalation.

Upon investigation, experts from the Philadelphia fire department determined that the house burned down as a result of two separate fires, each having been deliberately set. The minor cause of the fire was found to have been deliberately *521 caused by an open flame being struck to the sofa. The major cause of the fire was found to have occurred in the basement by use of an accelerant. In the opinion of the fire department expert, a plastic anti-freeze bottle found on the basement floor had been filled with gasoline and deliberately set ablaze. In the opinion of the fire department investigator, the fire was the result of arson. The Pierce home was located at 3011 Byberry Road in Philadelphia and was physically located within a row of attached houses.

Sharon DeFazio, a neighbor, testified that she recognized the anti-freeze bottle as identical to the one George Pierce used as a container for gasoline for his lawnmower. Ms. DeFazio testified that Mr. Pierce had, shortly before the fire, given her a similar bottle filled with gasoline for her lawnmower, explaining that it was a safer container in which to keep gasoline. Ms. DeFazio also knew where in his garage Mr. Pierce had kept his anti-freeze bottle containing gasoline. After the fire the anti-freeze bottle containing gasoline was not found in the Pierce garage.

In the garden behind the Pierce home a partial impression of a shoe print was discovered. Soil samples taken from the impression matched soil samples taken from the boots Michael Pierce was wearing on the morning of the fire. A short distance away from and to the rear of the Pierce home, in an area of abandoned buildings, police discovered a partially used book of matches. The same type of matchbooks were found in a box of matchbooks at the home of Tim O’Rielly, where the appellant had been staying the week preceding the fire. The area containing the abandoned buildings was surrounded by a fence. On the top rail of the fence police discovered a soil sample which matched with the samples taken from the impression in the garden of the Pierce home and the sample from the appellant’s boots.

At the time the fire was raging two teen-age boys were in the vicinity. The boys, Harry Espanshade and Randy Zehnder, approached two officers who were in the area on an unrelated matter and told them of the fire. The boys then began to walk through the woods towards the fire. As they *522 were proceeding towards the fire they saw a man running away from the fire wearing jeans and a flannel shirt over a dark T-shirt. The boys immediately gave the police a description of the man. A few minutes later they again saw the man, this time without the flannel shirt. Two hours later while at the scene of the fire the boys saw the same man walking up the street toward the Pierce home. They identified him as Michael Pierce.

Police Sergeant Shanfield was one of the officers who had been notified of the fire by Harry and Randy. As he was driving towards the Pierce house a man crossed in front of his car and ran into the woods. As the man was running Sergeant Shanfield observed him stumble. Two and one-half hours later the Sergeant saw appellant at the police station and recognized him as the man he had seen running into the woods earlier. After appellant was arrested he was treated at the Philadelphia county prison for an injury to his toe.

Joan Pierce, appellant’s sister, testified that her parents and appellant had a very strained relationship. Michael Pierce had accused his parents of putting steroids in his food and depriving him of an inheritance from his Uncle Al. One week prior to the fire George and Mary had asked appellant to leave the family residence. Appellant had told Joan on many occasions that he hated their parents and threatened to kill them. Joan had seen appellant on Sunday night before the fire; he was wearing jeans, a dark T-shirt and a red flannel shirt and boots.

The week before the fire Michael Pierce had been living with his friend Tim O’Rielly and Tim’s mother across the street from his parents’ home. Mrs. O’Rielly testified that during that week appellant had told her that he would have no peace while his parents were alive. Michael Pierce told Mrs. O’Rielly that he would get away with murdering his parents and would flee to Indonesia. Mrs. O’Rielly related this conversation to Joan Pierce.

Tim O’Rielly testified that during the week Michael Pierce stayed in his home, appellant repeatedly expressed the intent to kill *523 his parents. Michael Pierce told Tim of his intent to burn down the Pierce home and either commit suicide or escape to Indonesia. Appellant referred to his parents as “the enemy.” Appellant explained that he would break his grandmother’s neck so she wouldn’t have to suffer, or be placed in a nursing home.

Michael Pierce had a disagreement with Tim’s mother and decided to leave the O’Rielly home the Sunday before the fire. Appellant left Tim’s house about 11:00 p.m. Sunday night before the fire. At that time he was wearing a dark blue or green T-shirt, jeans and boots, and carrying a black and red flannel shirt Tim had given him.

At approximately 3:25 a.m. on the morning following appellant’s departure from the O’Rielly home, Tim was in his kitchen when he noticed lights on in the Pierce garage and observed the garage door partially opened. About ten minutes later the lights went out and he heard a thud and then saw the garage door was closed. Two minutes thereafter he saw the fire erupt in the Pierce house. Tim called the police and went outside to help with the fire.

Appellant was arrested later that morning when he was observed walking towards the Pierce home.


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