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Reasonable Doubt investigate the case of Claude Garrett who’s accused of murdering Lorie Lance Lee by arson

Claude Garrett mugshot
Claude Garrett was charged with setting the fire that killed girlfriend, Lorie Lee Lance. Pic credit: Tenessee Dept. of Corrections

Reasonable Doubt looks at the case of Claude Garrett, who was accused of killing his 24-year-old girlfriend Lorie Lance Lee in 1992 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Lee died of smoke inhalation from the fire that rampaged through the one block cinder home where she lived with 35-year-old Claude Garrett.

The fire started at approximately 5 am; both neighbors and firefighters were quickly alerted to the blaze, and firefighters had to restrain Claude, who kept trying to get back into the house to save Lorie.

However, Claude was eventually arrested and charged with setting the fire that killed his girlfriend. Now, many wonder if the science used to put him behind bars was phony.

Fire investigators immediately noticed signs of arson, including a can of kerosene in the house, and the fire was ruled arson and possible homicide by investigators.

Did Claude Garrett murder Lorie Lance by arson

Suspicion began to fall on Claude; Lorie’s family wondered if he had abused their daughter or if he had felt jealous of her. When Claude went to stay with his mother in Kansas, people wondered why he would appear to skip town.

He was given a lie detector test, which showed signs of deception when he denied setting the fire. Finally, a bartender informed police that Lorie had seemed scared of her partner on the night of the fire. Claude was arrested in Kansas and brought back to Tennessee to face a trial for murder.

In August 1993, a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison. Claude remains in jail, but many believe he was wrongfully convicted based on circumstantial evidence and on forensic science that has advanced since the 1990s.

A veteran Tennessee fire investigator is chief among those who believe the fire may have been wrongly attributed to arson. Since the 1990s, several people have been exonerated for arson after fires were discovered to sometimes behave in usual ways that make accidental fires look like they were deliberate.

More from Reasonable Doubt

Follow the links to read about more cases profile on Reasonable Doubt where there is cause to believe the wrong person was convicted of murder.

Celeste Beard is currently behind bars convicted of conspiring to murder her self-made millionaire husband, Steven Beard, with her lesbian lover Tracey Tarlton. Tarlton pulled the trigger, killing Steven and then implicated Celeste in the crime. Some now believe that Tarlton was acting alone, and Celeste is innocent.

Ken Middleton is serving a life sentence for killing his wife, Kathy Middleton, with a shotgun to the head. However, some forensics experts believe he couldn’t have pulled the trigger and think he’s telling the truth when he says it was a tragic accident.

Catch this episode of Reasonable Doubt on Tuesday, March 24, at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.

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