Manasil’s Former Boyfriend Testifies At Her Trial

Buddz's FirePrimghar, Iowa — The arson and insurance fraud trial of the owner of a Sheldon business that was destroyed in a May, 2013 fire resumed at 9 am Friday morning at the O’Brien County Courthouse in Primghar.

Friday’s session picked up where Thursday’s left off, with the testimony of Terry Johnson, the State Fire Marshall who investigated the cause of the Buddz’s blaze.  The jury saw Johnson’s video of his initial interview with the defendant, Kristina Manasil of Sheldon.  During that interview, Manasil claimed she knew nothing about the fire’s origin, and that she had been with her then-boyfriend, Adam Sickles, all day that day.

Johnson also showed more photos of the interior of the establishment that he took during his investigation.  These photos showed the bowling alley’s pin setters, which, according to Johnson, showed heat and smoke damage, but no fire damage.  Johnson told the jury that his professional conclusion as to the cause of the fire was arson.

On cross examination, defense attorney John Rigg showed Johnson photos of the restaurant’s kitchen stove, which showed a burned pan inside the oven.  Previously Johnson had testified that there had been no fire damage to the kitchen or bar area of the establishment.  Rigg also showed Johnson a photo of he business’s office safe, which still contained cash after the blaze.  Johnson said he had pulled the safe open during his investigation, and that he had needed no combination to open it.

Also under cross examination, Rigg asked Johnson about the office computer, where employees clock in and out.  Johnson said that there had been no forensic examination of that computer.

Manasil’s former boyfriend, Adam Sickles of Sheldon, took the stand, and told jurors that his romantic relationship with Manasil had ended last month when he accepted a plea bargain, and pleaded guilty to 2nd Degree Arson for his part in the Buddz’s fire.  Sickles is scheduled to be sentenced for that crime later this month.

Prosecutor Coleman McAllister showed the jury a video of Fire Marshall Johnson’s initial interview with Sickles, in which he had claimed that he knew nothing about the fire.  In subsequent interviews, Sickles said that he had smelled smoke inside the business that day, but that when he mentioned it to Manasil she had told him that there was a problem with the building’s air conditioning unit.

In Friday’s testimony, Sickles admitted that at one point he and Manasil had entered a storage room at Buddz’s, and that he saw a cardboard box containing paper towels and aerosol cans.  He said he noticed the box was charred, and that it contained some burning embers.  Sickles testified he retrieved a bucket of water to pour into the box, when, he says, Manasil told him to not pour the water on the box.  Instead, Sickles testified, she told him to put more paper towels in the box, and handed him a lighter.  Sickles told the jury that Manasil then told him to light the paper towels to burn down the building.  Sickles said that he and Manasil then left the storage room, and got everybody out of the building.

Sickles testified that Manasil called an employee meeting in her garage for the purpose of having all the employees “get their stories straight”.  Sickles told the jury that Manasil had said that she would be receiving insurance money as a result of the blaze.

On cross examination, Manasil’s defense attorney asked Sickles how long he had stayed in the building after the fire was lit.  Sickles replied that he couldn’t remember the exact time frame.

Manasil is charged with 1st Degree Arson and Insurance Fraud in connection with the blaze that destroyed Buddz’s and the Rec Bowl in Sheldon on May 14, 2013.


Earlier stories on the Manasil trial can be found here.



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