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Kristina ManasilPrimghar, Iowa — The jury in the Buddz’s arson and insurance fraud trial of the bowling alley’s former owner, Kristina Manasil, returned verdicts in the case late this (Wednesday) morning.

Following approximately eight hours of deliberation over the course of two days, the jury of eight women and four men found Manasil guilty of 1st Degree Arson and Insurance Fraud.

The business was heavily damaged in a fire in May, 2013.  The investigation into the cause of the blaze pinpointed arson, and in Manasil’s trial her former boyfriend testified that he had, at her direction, started the fire.  He entered a plea agreement last month, and faces sentencing in late May.

The date of Manasil’s sentencing is yet to be determined.  She faces a possible sentence of 25 years in prison.

Sheldon Names New High School Principal

Sheldon-Schools-logoSheldon, Iowa — Sherrie Zeutenhorst will be the new Principal of Sheldon Community High School following a special school board meeting held Tuesday evening.  Zeutenhorst replaces the current Principal, Matt Meendering, who resigned effective June 30th to take a similar position at Dowling Catholic High School in Des Moines.  Zeutenhorst will receive an annual salary of $95,000 as High School Principal.

In other action, the Board approved four employment contracts.  Meendering’s High School Head Football Coaching position will be filled by Tyler Lloyd, Danielle Walder was named High School Head Volleyball Coach, Leon Kleinwolterink will be an Assistant High School Softball Coach, and Jo Stegemann will be Concessions Manager.

The Board also accepted a pair of resignations at Tuesday’s meeting.  Sherrie Zeutenhorst resigned from her Guidance Counselor position to accept the High School Principal job, and Tanya Langholdt resigned her Elementary Principal position.  Both resignations are effective June 30th.

Sheldon Council Pays In Advance For Downtown Resurfacing Project

city councilSheldon, Iowa — The Sheldon City Council met Tuesday and after there were no comments during a public hearing on the Amended and Restated Sheldon Urban Renewal Plan, the City Council voted for the proposal.  There will probably be more amendments forthcoming as the city is reviewing the entire plan.

In other business they approved pay request Number Two for the Drainage Improvement Project near Maintainer and 16th Street.  It was reported that this project is nearing completion.

The Council also approved a payment of $199,000 for the downtown area resurfacing project.  This project has not yet started, but will result in improvements in about five blocks of streets near the downtown area.  The reason for the early payment was explained by City Manager Scott Wynja.  He said the project was to be paid out of funds from a bond providing money for several projects.  The City has been advised that all the money from the bond had to be used by May 15th.  Therefore the arrangement was made to pay the contractor for the resurfacing project in advance.  This was suggested by the city’s bonding attorney and reviewed by the City Attorney to be sure that the City’s interest was protected by the agreement.

The Council also set May 20th as the date for a public hearing on a budget amendment and June 3rd as the date for a public hearing on the Runger’s Street Project.  It was also announced that during the summer months of June, July and August the first council meeting of every month would be held on the first Wednesday at noon.   The meeting on the third Wednesday of the month will still be held at 4:30.

Manasil Jury To Reconvene Wednesday Morning

Kristina ManasilPrimghar, Iowa —  The jury will continue deciding the guilt or innocence of Buddz’s owner Kristina Manasil Wednesday at 9:00 am.

Late this afternoon, District Court Judge Don Courtney announced the jurors hadn’t reached a verdict by 5:30 pm, and the jurors were sent home for the evening,

Manasil is charged with 1st Degree Arson and Insurance Fraud in connection with the blaze that destroyed her bowling alley and restaurant nearly two years ago.

Watch for further updates.

Buddz’s Case Will Go To The Jury Tuesday

Buddz's FirePrimghar, Iowa — The jury in the Buddz’s arson trial will get the case Tuesday.

The prosecution rested Friday afternoon in the Buddz’s arson trial, and Monday morning the defense took their turn.

Defense attorney John Rigg’s first witness of the day was Rick Jones of Goodson Engineering in Denton, Texas, a Fire Investigator and Certified Bomb Tech.

Jones testified that he conducted no witness interviews during his investigation, instead relying on reports and documentation from police and fire departments.  He told jurors that he was looking for potential ignition sources that may have caused the Buddz’s blaze.

Jones testified that, in his professional opinion, there was insufficient data to pinpoint the cause of the fire, and that he would classify it as “undetermined”.

Rigg also called Private Investigator Scott Gratias of Des Moines to the witness stand.  Gratias testified that he had been hired to investigate the text messages between the defendant and her employees on the day of the fire.  He told jurors that, since there was only one cell tower in Sheldon, that it would be easy to pinpoint the location of  each person when the messages were sent.

Following the noon recess, Gratias returned to the stand for cross-examination by Assistant Iowa Attorney General Coleman McAllister.  Under cross-examination, after McAllister informed him that there were, in fact, multiple cell towers in Sheldon at the time of the fire, Gratias admitted that, in that case, it would be nearly impossible to pinpoint the location of the phones when the texts were sent.

At that point the defense rested their case.  Judge Don Courtney then informed the jury that they were finished for the day, and that court would reconvene Tuesday morning at 9:30, at which time the attorneys would present their closing arguments, Courtney would provide final jury instructions, and the jury would retire to deliberate the case.

36-year old Kristina Manasil of Sheldon is charged with 1st Degree Arson and Insurance Fraud in connection with the May, 2013 fire that destroyed Buddz’s and the Rec Bowl, a business that she owned.

For earlier stories on this trial, click here.