Girlfriend:  Truitt In Fight Before Fatal Arson Fire Set


Girlfriend:  Suspect Fought

Before Fatal Arson Fire Set

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

John Heller died in the Dec. 30, 2018, fire; Truitt is accused of setting it.

COOPERSTOWN – When Heather Engler woke up on Dec. 28 after staying with a friend on Rose Avenue, she had two missed calls and a message from her stepmother.

“She texted me to say that Gabriel (Truitt) had messaged her to say my house was on fire,” Engler testified. “I got up and ran to my apartment, and the fire trucks were already there.”

In the third day of testimony, Engler, who had previously been in a “rocky” romantic relationship with Truitt, testified that although she had plans with him that night, he didn’t respond to text messages, and she went out with another friend, who she identified as “Niko.”

The two went to the Sip & Sail, where they saw Truitt. Though Engler declined to speak to him, she testified that he approached Niko in the bar, the two spoke and shook hands, then outside the bar, Truitt attacked Niko. Niko, Truitt and another man, later identified as Oudou Kalla, were arrested and taken to the Oneonta Police Department.

Engler also testified that she had been in Truitt’s Tru Cuts Barber Shop “Over 100 times” and had often purchased large bottles of rubbing alcohol (identified by experts as the accelerant) for him at Dollar General when he was too busy.

“He stored it in a closet to the left of his barber salon,” she said. “He used it to disinfect combs, brushes and skin.”

Testimony is scheduled to continue this afternoon.

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