Primghar, Iowa — Witness testimony got underway this (Wednesday) morning in the 1st Degree Arson and Insurance Fraud trial of 36-year old Kristina Manasil of Sheldon. She’s accused of setting fire to Buddz’s and the Rec Bowl, in May of 2013, for the purpose of collecting on insurance. Manasil owned and operated the business at the time of the fire.
Iowa Assistant Attorney General Coleman McAllister is prosecuting the case, and called Sheldon Police Officer Rob Hegenbarth as his first witness Wednesday morning. Hegenbarth testified to what he witnessed upon arriving at the scene of the blaze on May 14, 2013, and exhibited the dashcam video recorded by his squad car that night.
The second prosecution witness was Sheldon Fire Chief Jerry Meyer who told the jury that firefighters had to make a forcible entry into the building, due to the double main entry doors on the west side of the building being locked. He said, upon entry, firefighters discovered that the main part of the fire was on the south side of the building. Meyer said that there was no damage to the building’s kitchen, and smoke damage in the bar area, with fire damage in the south side of the structure, including a store room. Meyer said that Sheldon firefighters couldn’t find an obvious cause of the blaze, so they called in Iowa State Fire Marshall Terry Johnson.
The final prosecution witness to take the stand Wednesday morning was Jon Manasil, the former husband of the defendant. He testified about the couple’s purchase of the business in 2010, and the fact that it had lost money during the time he and his former wife operated it together. He said he had not been involved in the operation of the business since the couple’s divorce in February, 2013. Manasil testified that the only sprinkler system in the building was in the kitchen area of the restaurant, and that the building had no smoke alarms.
When Jon Manasil testified that his ex-wife had filed an insurance claim for $1.2 million following the fire that destroyed the business, McAllister asked, “Would you be surprised if I told you that the insurance amount was $1.35 million?” Manasil replied, “Yes, I would.”
Testimony in the case will continue this (Wednesday) afternoon.