Bugman, exterminator admit to misusing pesticide outside home where girls died

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 11 2011 6:18 p.m. MDT

Raymond Wilson, President of Bugman Pest and Lawn Inc., speaks to reporters at the Frank E. Moss United States Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, October 11, 2011. Bugman Pest and Lawn accepted responsibility for breaking federal pesticide laws in a case tied to the deaths last year of two Layton girls.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A Bountiful pest-control company and one of it exterminators  admitted in federal court Tuesday to misusing a pesticide outside a home where two young girls died.

Coleman Nocks, 64, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one misdemeanor count of unlawful use of a registered pesticide. He admitted to applying Fumitoxin pellets into a burrow system within 15 feet of Nathan and Brenda Toone's home in Layton. The application was inconsistent with product's labeling and exceeded the required dosage. The poison was aimed at voles, a species of small rodents.

In exchange for the plea, federal prosecutors will drop two other charges in the indictment.

Nocks had no comment as he left the courtroom.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to recommend Nocks spend six months in prison and six months on home confinement with a work release for the length of the sentence. U.S. District Judge will consider the recommendation when he sentences Nocks on Dec. 20.

Five of the six members of the Toone family became ill after Nocks spread the Fumitoxin pellets outside their house in February 2010, and 4-year-old Rebecca Kaye Toone and 15-month-old Rachel Ana Toone died.

Nocks was initially charged in 2nd District Court with two counts of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor. Those charges were dropped when the federal indictment was filed.

Bugman Pest and Lawn Inc. owner Raymond Wilson Sr. pleaded guilty to the same federal charge as Nocks on Tuesday on behalf of the company. Prosecutors and defense attorneys recommended the judge ban Bugman from buying, selling or using pesticides for three years and issue a $3,000 fine.

"We feel extremely terrible for what the Toones have had to go through," Wilson said after the hearing. He said he hopes the plea brings the family some closure and allows them to put it behind them "to whatever extent that's possible."

Wilson shouldered blame for Nocks' actions, saying it's the company's responsibility if an employee breaks protocol.

Should Benson follow the sentence recommendation, "Bugman won't be able to do pest control for three years. It keeps Bugman out of business," Wilson said.

Meanwhile, Bugman's insurance company, American Safety Indemnity Compay, is refusing to pay any claims, arguing in federal court documents that Bugman's application of Fumitoxin at the Toone's home "was not an accident but purposeful conduct."

Attorneys for the Toones contend ASIC crafted a "heads we win, tails you lose" insurance policy that contains ambiguous and contradictory exclusions, according to court documents. They are asking the court to require the insurance company to indemnify Bugman and to provide the coverage.

Nathan and Brenda Toone, have also filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2nd District Court against Bugman, Wilson, Nocks and five others associated with the company.

Wilson and the Toones' attorney declined to comment on those cases.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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