Couple accused of burning woman to death granted bond

Thu, 12/17/2009 - 1:58pm
By: John Munford

Husband, wife accused of burning his mother; Judge orders $500,000 bond on each defendant

Scott and Valerie Dahlman, both accused of killing his mother by setting her on fire in their north Peachtree City home, will be allowed to remain free on bond pending their criminal trial.

Chief Superior Court Judge Paschal A. English Jr. ordered a $500,000 bond set for each defendant Thursday afternoon following a brief hearing.

After the hearing, District Attorney Scott Ballard said prosecutors believe the Dalhmans worked together to kill Frances Dahlman, who burned to death in a recliner.

Scott Dahlman was arrested Wednesday, 16 days following his wife’s arrest on murder and arson charges. But Scott Dahlman was also charged with malice murder and aggravated assault along with murder and arson.

The malice murder charge means that Scott Dahlman is accused of intentionally killing his mother Frances.

Ballard noted that prosecutors have undergone extensive forensic tests in the case to rule out potential defense theories of what might have happened in lieu of murder.

“We tested for all kinds of things,” Ballard said, adding that prosecutors feel they have excluded any possible explanation except for Frances Dahlman being murdered.

Ballard declined to get into specifics of any evidence collected in the case.
Officials previously revealed that an autopsy confirmed that Frances Dahlman burned to death.

A nurse who cared for Frances Dahlman 12 hours a day testified that Valerie Dahlman gave excellent care to her mother in law, including massages and other necessary medical care.

“I have never seen anybody take care of their mother in law like this,” Williams said.

Williams testified that when she left Frances Dahlman the evening before her death, she recalled a candle being lit on a table immediately next to the recliner. She also testified that Frances Dahlman had been under hospice care at the time of her death, having suffered a massive stroke previously that left her paralyzed on one side.

Williams, on cross examination, also testified that she is now living in the same basement apartment in which Mrs. Dahlman died. Williams said she is paying $300 a month to live in the two bedroom apartment that includes a small kitchen.

The fire occurred Aug. 31, 2008 at the family’s home at 402 Abrell Woods Court in the Crabapple Woods subdivision. On Aug. 22, Williams said she called 911 after Frances Dahlman had a severe seizure.
Prosecutor Warren Sellers suggested that Valerie Dahlman refused to let medical personnel take Frances Dahlman to the hospital for treatment following that seizure.

From the beginning of the investigation fire officials were suspicious of Frances Dahlman’s death because it was not obvious how the fire started. But that didn’t keep supporters of the couple, numbering more than 20, from standing up in the courtroom Thursday showing their support for Scott and Valerie Dahlman.

The Dahlmans are being represented by highly regarded Atlanta criminal defense attorney Ed Garland.

Garland submitted evidence in the bond hearing that Frances Dahlman had a “do not resuscitate” order filed in addition to orders resulting from her hospice care that she not be forced to take her medication.

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