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‘Best Friend’ Of Mentally Disabled Man Torches House With Him In It To Collect Insurance Money
Trapped upstairs during a house fire set by his friend Joseph Meyers, David O’Dell was burned to a blackened crisp.
Aiming to cash in on the hefty life, renter’s and homeowner’s insurance policies they’d taken out in the previous two months, Joe Meyers and his wife, Iryn, conspired to burn 60-year-old David O’Dell’s house to ground while he was trapped inside.
O’Dell was a mentally disabled handyman in upstate New York. Meyers was his best friend.
Meyers and O’Dell had been close since childhood, according to “Killer Couples” on Oxygen. O’Dell had taken a nasty blow to the head when he was little, but he was known in his community for his hard work and kind heart, according to The Evening Tribune, a local newspaper.
“He was one of those neighbors everyone wants to have,” District Attorney Brooks Baker told producers of "Killer Couples.” “He’ll shovel your snow, he’ll push your car out, he’ll watch your house when you’re away.”
O’Dell made a living working odd jobs around the rural community of Wayland, New York, and in addition to being his dearest friend, Meyers was also his main employer. He paid him $120 a week to work at a business he owned, Loon Lake Services, according to The Evening Tribune.
“David was the hardest worker I’ve ever seen,” David’s brother, Phil O’Dell, told producers.
Meyers was an enterprising man, however, and Loon Lake apparently wasn’t bringing in the kind of income he wanted. The prosecution claimed he was hoping to buy a tow-truck company and upgrade his living space, according to The Evening Tribune. Additionally, his wife — a Filipino woman he met online, married abroad and brought back with him to the United States — needed money to bring her children over from the Philippines, investigative journalist Kelley Vick told producers.
And so, Joe and Iryn began to plot.
“First, they came up with a plan to take David’s meds away from him,” Vick told producers. “They thought that perhaps without his meds, he would have a seizure and die.”
When that didn’t happen, the couple began to consider more drastic measures.
In fall 2015, Iryn, who was helping take care of O’Dell at the time, convinced him to deed her the 100-year-old farm house he was living in for $8,000, The Evening Tribune reports. Then, in December 2015, she took out a $60,000 insurance policy on the house and $40,000 life insurance policy on O’Dell, listing herself as the sole beneficiary, according The Evening Tribune. Iryn also took out a $45,000 renter’s insurance policy for her possessions on the same property.
Finally, in February 2016, the killer couple set their plan in motion.
Video surveillance acquired by “Killer Couples” shows the Myers’ car leaving their house three times on the night of Feb. 15. Each time, the couple came back with heavy tubs, apparently full of items Iryn had been keeping with O’Dell. Around 1:15 a.m., Joe can be seen walking in the direction of O’Dell’s house with a torch.
Within minutes, a hot glow begins to fill the sky.
O’Dell, upstairs when the fire started, was trapped inside while the wooden house went up in flames around him. He was charred to a crisp, with his remains measuring 41 inches in length and weighing 97 pounds, according to the Tribune.
Joe and Iryn were arrested within days. Joe was charged with arson, conspiracy, insurance fraud and lying to the police, according to The Evening Tribune. Iryn was charged with murder, two counts of arson, insurance fraud and attempted insurance fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy. They were both sentenced to 23 years to life in prison.
The Wayland community still struggles to come to grips with the heartless act.
“Everybody loved David, and even [Joe] keeps saying that he was David’s best friend,” Phil O’Dell told the Tribune. “So why? Why would a best friend, why would you kill your best friend?”
Through everything, O’Dell continues to be remembered most for his kindness.
“Dave was a loving person,” John Siciliano, a friend of O’Dell’s, told producers. “He was timid. He was honest. He was a good friend.”
For more information, tune in to “Killer Couples,” airing Thursdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.