A propane grill accidentally left on after a party at a Davenport couple’s wine store in 2007 may have started the fire that damaged the business, according to testimony Tuesday at the couple’s arson trial.
Beverly and William Flinchum are on trial this week in Scott County District Court, Davenport, after the Iowa Court of Appeals last year reversed a district judge’s dismissal of the case.
The Flinchums owned WineStyles, 4866 Utica Ridge Road, Davenport. First-degree arson charges against the couple stem from an Aug. 18, 2007, fire at the business.
The couple is accused of placing several lit candles in a strategic setting throughout the business, then altering a propane tank and grill. Those activities caused two explosions that were reported at 10:14 p.m. the night of the fire, records state.
Jeff Maske of Iowa City, owner of the property and the Flinchums’ landlord at the time, testified Tuesday that a propane grill was left on in the back of a storage room after a party at the store and that the grill set off the fire alarm. He said he spoke with Beverly Flinchum and a local property manager after the fire, and they both told the same story.
Maske also testified the Flinchums were behind in rent at the time and that he’s still owed money, though he didn’t elaborate as to how much, saying that issue is being dealt with in bankruptcy court.
The state initially charged the Flinchums June 20, 2008.
The couple filed a motion to dismiss the charges Oct. 9, 2008, and 10 months later, the court ruled in favor of their motion. The district court found “the minutes of testimony do not provide any facts that a fire was intentionally set,” records state.
The state filed new trial information in the case Sept. 2, 2009, and again charged each of the Flinchums with first-degree arson. Scott County District Judge Marlita Greve, who’s presiding over the non-jury trial this week, granted a new motion to dismiss on Jan. 25, 2010, this time finding a violation of their one-year speedy trial rights.
The state appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed Greve’s decision, ruling that “because the defendants’ one-year speedy trial rights were triggered by the September 2009 arraignment, the trial court erred in dismissing this action on speedy trial grounds.”
First-degree arson is a Class B felony that is punishable in Iowa by up to 25 years in prison upon conviction.
Scott County Attorney Mike Walton, who is prosecuting the case, said the trial is set to go through Thursday.