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A hero or a murderer? New TV show took on notorious 1991 Dayton case of arson, death

“I really feel bad that he is still in there for something he didn’t do,” his friend tells ‘Reasonable Doubt’ host.

Was a Dayton teen a monster or a hero? 

The Investigation Discovery show “Reasonable Doubt” took on the notorious Dayton murder case of David E. Clark in an episode that aired last night, Aug. 15. 

At age 16, Clark was found guilty of setting the April 28, 1991, house fire that killed 12-year-old Amanda Simpson and injured her mother.

>> The subject of the LA Times’ chilling true-crime podcast got his start in Dayton 

David E. Clark is serving a life sentence for the murder of Amanda Simpson (pictured). She was 12 when her house was set on fire. Clark was 15. (Dayton Daily News archive)

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“Reasonable Doubt” hosts Chris Anderson and Fatima Silva interviewed Clark, his sisters Patti McNeill and Alicia Clark and others as part of the show.  

Jestin ThomasonScott Anspach and Chris Anspach-Morrow told Silva police coerced them into blaming Clark when they were impressionable children.   

Now men, the three say they ran with Clark toward the fire after it had already started. 

>> MORE HISTORIC CRIMES: 5 of Dayton's most shocking murders

During the trial, Thomason, then 13, and John "Scooter" Spicer, then 17, testified that Clark said "Let 'em burn," and poured gasoline on the Simpsons' kitchen floor at 831 Clover St., after he carried a microwave oven out of the house and gave it to three adults, according to a 1992 Dayton Daily News article written by Rob Modic. 

Amanda Simpson died several days after the fire as a result of the injuries she received.

David E. Clark, then 16, hangs his head after being sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Amanda Simpson. He was 15 at the time of the 1991 murder. Simpson was 12.

In his interview, Thomason said he pointed the finger at Clark, then 15, because that was the story fed to him. 

“I wish I could have been the man I am today at 12 years old,” he said. “I do feel real bad about the decisions that were made back then.” 

>> MORE HISTORIC CRIMES: How this former cop committed one of Dayton's most notorious crimes of passion — and you decide his fate

Chris Anspach-Morrow cried for Clark during the interview. 

“I really feel bad that he is still in there for something he didn’t do,” he told Silva. 

Two others with Clark the night of the fire have not changed their stories.  

Jestin Thomason, Scott Anspach, and Chris Anspach-Morrow tell Fatima Silva their memories of the event. (Image: Investigation Discovery/Investigation Discovery)

Clark has long denied setting the fire or breaking into the house.

According to the newspaper article, Clark told police he and the other children had been walking down Clover Street when they spotted the fire shortly before 1 a.m. He said he tried to rescue the Simpsons before firefighters arrived.

Now 42 and serving a life sentence in the Madison Correctional Institution for aggravated burglary, aggravated arson, attempted aggravated murder and aggravated murder, Clark told Anderson perceptions about him are wrong. 

“I was always good-hearted,” he said. “I don’t like to hurt anybody or anything, you know? I mean, I feel like I did something good and I ended up being punished.”   

The hosts meet with Clark’s sisters at the conclusion of the show and share their thoughts about his guilt or innocence. 

>> Commentary: ‘Thoughts and prayers’ are not enough

Sandra Coats, the mother of David Clark, reacts to the sentencing of her son to life in prison. (Dayton Daily News archive)
 
David E. Clark (pictured) is serving a life sentence for the murder of Amanda Simpson. She was 12 when her house was set on fire. Clark was 15. he is being housed in the Madison Correctional Institution (Photo: Department of Rehabilitation and Correction)
(Dayton Daily News archive)
David E. Clark is serving a life sentence for the murder of Amanda Simpson. She was 12 when her house was set on fire. Clark was 15. This photo was taken outside of her funeral in 1991. (Dayton Daily News archive)
David E. Clark is serving a life sentence for the murder of Amanda Simpson (pictured). She was 12 when her house was set on fire. Clark was 15. (Dayton Daily News archive)

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