Donald E. Mathes: Manipulation shown

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The front-page story under the headline "House Fire Suspicious" in last Sunday's (Jan. 25, 2004) Pilot & Today was a good example of how civil authorities successfully manipulate the press.

There was no news in that story; everything in there had been reported earlier with the exception of several statements by sheriff's office investigator Ken Klinger. The investigator is quoted, "We don't have a smoking gun. I wish we did."

Such wishful thinking is unacceptable. Mr. Klinger's job as an investigator, I believe, is to ascertain the facts in the case, find out exactly what happened Dec. 9, and report those facts. He is not a prosecutor and should not indulge in wishing for information that might imply criminal intent or activity on the part of anyone.

His additional comments as quoted in your story are almost as bad and totally inappropriate during an ongoing investigation. One can only conclude that Mr. Klinger was attempting to influence public opinion against the owners of the property. I don't believe that is his job.

He should have followed the lead of the other sheriff's office investigator mentioned in the story, Rachelle Redmond, who refused to comment on an ongoing investigation. That is the way law enforcement should act. And the Steamboat Pilot & Today's reporter and editor should have been more alert to their responsibility to the residents involved and not have been a party to this attempt to sway public opinion.

In this country, in this state, and in this county, our citizens are innocent until proven otherwise.

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