March 24, 2016


AGE: 38

DIED: APRIL 9, 2003


AGE: 6

DIED: APRIL 6, 2003

Hometown: Cedar Rapids

Jay Grahlman and his 6-year-old daughter, Jaymie, died from injuries suffered in a late- night fire set at their Cedar Rapids home on Saturday, April 5, 2003. Also in the home at the time of the fire were Jay’s girlfriend, Vickie Reed, 32, Reed’s daughters, Kylie Reed, 9, Nicole Reed, 7, and Grahlman’s youngest daughter, Ida Mae Grahlman, 3.

Reed stated that she pulled Jay and three of the daughters to safety but couldn’t find Jaymie. Once Jay realized Jaymie still remained inside, he ran back into the burning home to search for her. While searching, he sustained second- and third-degree burns over 37 percent of his body on his face, scalp, neck and shoulders. Firefighters found Jaymie alive but unconscious early Sunday morning in the home’s bathtub. She lay stretched out on her back, face up, almost as if she’d peacefully gone to sleep in the bathtub and not heard the screams all around.

Family friend and neighbor Brian Zirtzman — a 39-year- old man with an IQ of just 67 — was later charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson but acquitted by a Linn County District Court jury after testimony inferred Zirtzman had likely been coached before going to police with a memorized confession “too complex” to be made by a man with an IQ that falls in the bottom 1 percent of adults. Zirtzman became a suspect when officials discovered he’d set two fires in his early teen years. Zirtzman’s juvenile record came as no surprise to Reed; she’d known about the two arson charges long before her own home went up in flames.

During Zirtzman’s trial, his juvenile record was not given to the jury; the court ruled the two and one-half decades- old arson convictions far too distant to even be considered relevant. In each of the two cases when Zirtzman was a teen, neither fire had been set with anyone present in the home.

Prosecutors said Zirtzman set the fire so he could save the family, whom he visited frequently. That plan went awry when the flames spread too quickly, they told the court. The details weren’t adding up for jurors. If the flames had spread so quickly and kept Zirtzman from making any of the planned rescues, how did Vickie Reed later manage to make three or four trips back into the home to rescue the others ... and emerge with no burns of any kind and only minor smoke inhalation?

Jaymie Grahlman’s official autopsy report revealed other disturbing evidence in addition to the second- and third-degree burns. The autopsy report included the following diagnoses: thermal injuries; brain swelling; Hydrothoraces (defined as an accumulation of fluid in one or both pleural cavities, often resulting from disease of the heart or kidneys); chronic liver inflammation; Hydroperitoneum (defined as an accumulation of fluid in the peritoneum, often associated with cirrhosis of the liver); Bronchoalveolar pneumonia, scarring on bronchial tissues, and acute, chronic inflammation in the trachea; soot was present in mucus in the upper airways, consistent with smoke inhalation; brain swelling consistent with anoxic encephalopathy; Escherichia coli (e-coli).