Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Louis DiNicola

Real Name: Louis DiNicola
Case: Appeal
Location: Erie, Pennsylvania
Date: August 31, 1979


Details: On August 31, 1979, a fire ravaged a two story residence in Erie, Pennsylvania. The fire killed Deborah Sweet's two children. A man named Louis DiNicola was arrested, tried, and convicted of the murders, but he claims that he is innocent and that the fire was accidental. Deborah Sweet was the state's chief witness, but it turned out that her memory had been "hypnotically refreshed." When she was first interviewed, Ms. Sweet said she saw Louis standing exactly where two fire investigators incorrectly believed the fire had started, using a flammable liquid. That bit of exculpatory data was withheld by the Prosecutor, and when the appeals court learned about it, Mr. DiNicola was granted a new trial. The state waited 10 years to retry him.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the January 6, 1995 episode about Dr. Cyril Wecht.
Results: Solved. In 1994, forensic fire investigator John Lentini proved that the fire was most likely accidental, and that the methodology used by the State's fire investigators was not valid. Pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht testified about a "second autopsy" that the State conducted. In the first autopsy, smoke inhalation was listed as the cause of death. This did not fit the State's theory, so they exhumed the bodies and hired a new medical examiner whose results the Prosecutor liked better. In the second autopsy, "cut marks" were found on the children's necks. Dr. Wecht testified that these "cut marks" were probably a result of the first autopsy. DiNicola was retried and was acquitted.