A judge suspended a former Davenport couple’s arson trial Thursday at the request of the defendants for personal reasons as well as the weather. Scott County District Judge Marlita Greve agreed to delay the rest of the trial after defense attorney Kent Simmons said Beverly and William Flinchum needed to get back to their 7-year-old daughter in Utah and didn’t want to get caught in a snow storm that was on its way to the Quad-Cities.
“Beverly is in an emotional state,” Simmons, a Davenport attorney, said. “Her 7-year-old daughter is with her mother-in-law in Utah, and it’s not working out. And there’s a snow storm there that’s on its way and they need to drive back.”
Scott County Attorney Mike Walton objected to the delay. “The defense has had a year to prepare for this case, and we’re ready to go to Monday,” he said.
The Flinchums have been 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 couple owned WineStyles, 4866 Utica Ridge Road, Davenport. First-degree arson charges against the couple stem from an Aug. 18, 2007, fire at the business.
Weather reports showed the possibility of light snow Thursday night, but no major storm for the Quad-Cities.
“The rain is moving out early this evening, and it may mix with snow,” National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Ervin said. “We’re not expecting any accumulation. It’ll be a dusting on the grass, if at all.”
Utah also wasn’t experiencing a snow storm Thursday, or anywhere in between here and there. Ervin said the closest snow storm to the Quad-Cities was northwestern Minnesota, while the East Coast is bracing for a major onslaught.
The weather is only getting nicer, with temperatures expected to climb into the high 30s and 40s this weekend, Ervin added.
After the judge’s ruling, the attorneys agreed to postpone the non-jury trial until March 4, when the defense will begin its case.
Simmons also made a motion Thursday for judgment of acquittal, which Greve took under advisement saying she has about 70 exhibits and 110 pages of notes to review.
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.
Simmons said the Flinchums had no motive to set fire to their business. “If there was a fire, it certainly hasn’t helped them,” he said. “It’s a pretty drastic step being inferred from the state’s evidence.”
Walton said William Flinchum was caught on surveillance videotape lighting two candles just before he left the store. Responding firefighters smelled a gas odor upon entering the store and found a candle on a stool within feet of the propane tank, Walton said. At least one of the firefighters heard a hissing sound coming from the tank, he added.
“The fact the explosion did not work to the level they intended is not a defense,” Walton said.
Walton added the couple lost money in the business over the three years it was open, and Beverly Flinchum, deep in credit card debt, also couldn’t handle a business and a newborn alone while her husband was overseas. William Flinchum was a U.S. Army staff sergeant in 2007.
“She wanted out of that business,” Walton said.
First-degree arson is a Class B felony that is punishable in Iowa by up to 25 years in prison upon conviction.