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Moline Man Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison For Malicious Arson Three People Died In Explosion, Fire

May 22, 2008

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – A Moline, Illinois man whose botched suicide attempt in March 2007 resulted in an explosion and fire in which three people died, was sentenced to 20 years in prison today, as announced by Rodger A. Heaton, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois. William Henry VanDeWoestyne, 41, pled guilty in January 2008 to malicious arson resulting in death. U.S. District Judge Michael M. Mihm further ordered VanDeWoestyne to serve 5 years of supervised release and pay restitution to several victims of his crime.

During VanDeWoestyne’s plea hearing, and according to the factual basis of the plea agreement, VanDeWoestyne admitted he caused a natural gas explosion and fire during the very early morning hours of March 4, 2007, at a residential condominium at 4341 26th Avenue in Moline, Illinois. As a direct result of the explosion and fire, three building residents died: Lupe R. Irizarry, age 69; William F. Daugherty, age 88; and John M. Hansen, Jr., age 33. VanDeWoestyne, who also resided in one of the building’s 12 units, was injured in the explosion.

VanDeWoestyne admitted that he had manually loosened his unit’s natural gas line to the water heater approximately one week before the explosion and fire, but had reconnected it by hand. VanDeWoestyne further admitted that in an attempt to commit suicide by asphyxiation, he again loosened the natural gas line on the evening of March 3, 2007, allowing natural gas to openly flow into his unit of the building. The unit’s furnace, which had an electronic ignition system, was located next to the hot water heater in the utility closet. Experts suspect that when the furnace’s thermostat engaged, the electronic ignition system ignited the natural gas flowing from the hot water heater’s natural gas line, resulting in the explosion and fire.

The charges resulted from an investigation by the Moline Police Department; Moline Fire Department; East Moline Fire Department; Rock Island County State’s Attorney’s Office; the Illinois State Fire Marshals Office; Rock Island Arsenal Fire Department; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The case was prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey B. Lang.

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