In 2008, Ari Squire had everything going for him, at least that's what it looked like from the outside. He had a successful construction business, a large house in a Chicago suburb, a wife, and was able to indulge in his favorite past time, Truck Pulls. If you don't know what truck pulls are, I didn't, basically, it's a contest to see who’s truck can pull the heaviest load the fastest. It requires a good amount of skill and you have to be a pretty good mechanic to have this as one of your hobbies, Ari was. And it wasn’t really a hobby, it was more of an obsession to him.
Because of his thriving business, Ari added a 2300 square foot garage addition to his Chicago home, this gave him the room to tinker and modify his truck. Unfortunately, this dream garage would turn into Ari’s worst nightmare.
On February 23rd, 2008 a 911 call was made reporting a fire in the garage. The call is made by Ari’s wife, Denise Squire. The call is kind of strange in my opinion, you can hear a short clip on the Forensic File episode.
Denise is in the house when she notices the fire and when she calls she doesn’t sound frantic or worried, she is very calm and she asks the 911 operator what she should do if she should leave the house or not? I just think that's interesting, I would think it would be obvious to leave the house if the house is on fire. I only bring this up because I do think it is relevant for the story, but we’ll get to that!
When the fire department arrived on scene, Denise was waiting outside, she said she was concerned about her husband since he wasn’t answering his phone. When the fire department was finally able to put the fire out, they found a horrible scene.
Pinned underneath a truck was the charred body of Ari Squire.
Investigators believed that a bizarre sequence of events leads to the deadly fire. They theorized that as Ari was under the truck it somehow slipped off the jack crushing him to death while he was working on the fuel filter, meaning the fuel spilled all over his clothing. Not only did the truck crush Ari though, but it also crushed a fluorescent lamp that was on the floor, when the lamp was crushed, a spark was released which ignited the fire. It sounds like a game of mousetrap to me!
Ari’s death was shocking to his friends, especially those in the Diesel Trucking world, although they were surprised that Ari hadn’t been using any safety measures which he normally would the death was such a familiar manner. This whole community spent most of their time under their trucks. Unfortunately the burns left the body unrecognizable and they were only able to identify Ari based on his clothing and his driver's license which was on his body.
Like I said, from the outside Ari seemed to have it all, but when investigators started to look a little deeper into his life, they realized that maybe, just maybe, things weren’t as they appeared to be. The Squire’s marriage was essentially loveless, it was cold. The investigator said that they had been married 14 years and there were hardly any photos of them around the house, only a small wedding picture. He said that their marriage seemed more of a transaction, that they both lead separate lives and really knew nothing about each other.
That wasn’t all though, in December 2007 Ari was sentenced to 5 years probation and six months home confinement in addition to sixty-three thousand dollars in restitution for bilking Medicare. His court bills in addition to the end of the housing boom left Ari and his business practically bankrupt. He also had a life insurance policy for $5 million dollars and the premium was about to go way up. So much so that he would no longer be able to pay for it.
When the investigator told Denise that her worries about her husband's safety were in fact warranted and that he had passed away in the fire, her reaction was not weird but, notable. He believed she was in sensory overload, a perfectly normal reaction to a trauma like this. After he told her, her response was only “what do I do now?”.
Denise quickly organized a memorial where over 100 friends, family members and acquaintances came to pay their respects to Ari. Many guests wrote in an online condolence book, sending their love and memories of Ari. One person wrote that Ari was “the most kind, spirited and giving person ever.” But there were some uninvited guests, members of the police department, and they had good reason. They were following their gut and something just felt off.
Upon further investigation of the garage, they found some interesting inconsistencies. When a truck falls off a jack, it is typical that there would be some kind of dents, scratches, something of the sort of damage, in this case, there was none. Another inconsistency was with the fluorescent lamp, it was assumed that this was the cause of the fire, however, upon further investigation it was discovered that the circuit breaker was off, meaning that there was no electricity going to the lamp which would mean that there was no way it could have caused the fire. And then there is the fuel, it was discovered that there was a lot more fuel on the victim's clothes then could have come from the fuel tank, what's more, some of the fuel wasn’t even the right kind of fuel. They weren’t able to ever identify what this fuel was but they knew that it was much more flammable than the one coming from the truck.
With all of these inconsistencies, the case was looking more and more like a homicide. The medical examiner realized that it might not be a bad idea to really be 100% sure that the victim was in fact, Ari Squire. Because the body was so charred, they weren't able to do fingerprint identification or obviously facial recognition. This left them with two options, DNA or dental identification. Ari hadn’t been to the dentist in almost a decade so it did take them a while to track down his records but when they did, they were faced with a new problem. Ari had a large filling in one of his molars, x-rays from the victim showed that they DID NOT have this filling. Denise also told investigators that Ari had a tattoo on his upper arm, there was no tattoo on the victim's body. This all now leads to the next question, who is the victim and where in the world is Ari?
On February 25th, 2008 Donna FioRito called police to report her son missing
Justin Newman was a 20-year-old, hard-working kid. He worked at Home Depot and was last seen on February 23rd. On February 24th Donna received a strange text from him, it said “Gone to Missouri for work, call you next week”. The text was strange but what was more strange to Donna is the text itself, Justin never texted, he would always call. So she was immediately suspicious that something was wrong.
Donna told investigators that Justin had been approached by a man at Home Depot, he basically went up to Justin and said “hey, you look like a hard worker, would you like to make some extra money?”. Justin was helping to support his mother and was working to being able to afford a bigger apartment when this man offered him $15 an hour to help him out at his home, Justin was excited and quickly took him up on his offer.
Justin was scheduled to meet the man on Saturday February 23rd, at the mans home. And what was the man's name you ask? Ari Squire.
The medical examiner decided to re-examine the body, they noticed that Justin and Ari were essentially the same height and weight, 5ft six inches and 140 lbs. They took DNA samples from Justin’s toothbrush as well as his mother and compared it to the remains. It was a match. They were finally able to identify the body as Justin Newman.
Police issued an all-points bulletin for Justin's car, they believed that if they found the car, they would find Ari.
That's when the police received a very very interesting tip. A man named Sandy Lively. Sandy also worked at Home Depot with Justin and he said that Ari was often hanging around the store, talking to him. He said that Ari would constantly badger him about coming to work for him at his home. Sandy finally gave in and was given an insanely detailed job application to fill out. The application was like nothing Sandy had ever seen before, it asked about tattoos, where his tattoos were if he had piercings stuff like that. Sandy was confused, he'd never been asked about tattoos or piercings before and he didn't understand why it would have anything to do with him doing construction work.
Still, they planned a day to meet. Saturday, February 23rd. Luckily for Ari, his daughter had her 10th birthday on Friday, February 22nd. It was a sleepover with a bunch of girls and he ended up being kept up all night. He ended up oversleeping and missing the appointment.
When having a discussion with the police, they noticed something interesting. Sandy and Ari looked very very similar, in fact, Ari seemed to have been trying to look even more like Sandy, and in the weeks before the fire, he grew out his beard. When he did this the two could have looked like twins (I'll add a picture to Insta).
Sandy was faced with the realization that Ari had had his eye on him, and he was most likely Aris's victim of choice.
Investigators believed that when Sandy missed the appointment, he was frustrated and called Justin, his second choice. When Justin arrived at his home, investigators believe that Ari used chloroform to control Justin, he then took off all of Justin's closed and switched them with his own, as well as switching their wallets. He then put Justin under the truck, lifted up the jack and then let it fall, crushing Justin to death. Next, he poured more fuel over Justin as well as an unidentified accelerant and lit the fire with a match. This leaves us with one big question, where was Ari?
Within a few days, an officer was doing a routine license check, he said that they often run license plate checks at a local motel. He ended up running the license of Justin's car and realized that it had an all-points bulletin, the officer ended up going into the motel and asking which guest the car belonged to. The office worker said that the car belonged to a man named Justin Newman. The officer decided to confront Ari, without back up.
He walked to the motel room and knocked on the door, identifying himself. Within seconds he heard one gunshot, Ari had killed himself. It turned out that Ari had assumed Justin's identity and had even gone so far as to dye his hair and wear blue contact lenses. Ari knew what his future would hold, he was headed to prison for a long long time and he couldn’t face it.
This time, when officers went to Denise to tell her that her husband was dead, her reaction was very different. She was genuinely surprised that he had killed himself and she started crying. She admitted that she had actually been in communication with Ari in the days after he had supposedly died. He sent her emails asking about the memorial and when and where she would be spreading his ashes. Initially, Denise said she thought the emails were automatically scheduled, I don’t believe that at all.
Based on the way she reacted on the 911 call and after the first time she was told her husband was dead, she knew her husband was alive and well. Supposedly, Ari’s life insurance premium was about to go way up, so much so that he would no longer be able to afford it. Instead of letting the insurance lapse, he came up with a plan to cash out and ride into the sunset with $5 million dollars.
Denise denied that she had anything to do with the murder of Justin, but she had to have known that someone would have to die in order for the plot to play out. Ari also needed someone to claim the money, he couldn’t claim it. He needed his wife to know the plan so that they would be able to collect.
Although Denise was never formally charged for the crime, suspicion has always surrounded her and investigators have always been determined to convict her. At the time the Dateline episode was released, 2009, the insurance company had not paid out the life insurance to Denise, however, since Ari committed suicide in the two-year window between when the suicide clause would come into effect, she was eligible to collect the money. She also was able to collect insurance money from the garage fire and ended up getting $14,000. In 2009, she still lived in the home.
Donna ended up filing a civil lawsuit against Ari and Denise and she ended up winning, The jury awarded her six million dollars. Donna said of losing her son “I've never heard of anything happenin' like this to anybody in my life - ever. It's inexcusable for anybody - anybody to do that to another human being. He had to be some kind of monster. Very heinous. And it's all about money. I'm never gonna be over it. I'm gonna live every day of my life thinking about Justin.”
Sandy says he thinks about this case every day, if not all day long. We have to remember that he knew Justin, he worked with Justin at Home Depot. He says he sufferers survivors' guilt and has struggled with nightmares. He said he dreams that he's under the truck but he's not dead and he can see Ari lighting the fire but there’s nothing he can do about it.
There's one last little tidbit that I wanted to cover, supposedly both Ari and an investigator on the case were inspired by a particular Forensic File episode. This case was the case of Madison Rutherford, and I’m not going to really get into it because we haven't covered this case yet and eventually we will but essentially it was about a man who faked his own death to claim the insurance money and then disappeared with a new identity. There are many similarities in the cases, a similar amount of life insurance money, a fire, a car, and a man who vanishes with a new identity. Some say this episode gave Ari the idea on how to plan out his plot
The investigator had watched the episode while actively on the case and realized, hey… maybe everything isn't what it appears to be.