News and Press Releases

Stockton business owner sentenced for arson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 17, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that an El Dorado Springs, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court today for his role in the arson fire of his business in Stockton, Mo.

Dan Thornton, 39, of El Dorado Springs, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr to five years in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Thornton to pay $295,494 in restitution.

On June 30, 2010, Thornton pleaded guilty to the arson fire that destroyed his building at 600 West St., in Stockton. The property housed the Cigarette Shack, Pappi’s Pizza and Movieland as well as a vacant business.

Co-defendants Dina Larson, 39, of Stockton, and her son, Jacob Smith, 19, also of Stockton, each pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting one another to destroy the building and have also been sentenced. Larson was sentenced on July 30, 2010, to three years and 10 months in federal prison without parole. Smith was sentenced on Jan. 7, 2010, to five years in federal prison without parole. They are jointly and severally liable with Thornton for $295,494 in restitution.

The arson occurred on March 18, 2009. At approximately 4 a.m. that day, Cedar County Deputy Sheriff Frank Brumfield, while fueling his vehicle, heard what he believed to be a heavy door slamming. Brumfield proceeded to the source of the sound and observed smoke emanating from the front of the vacant business.

After the fire was extinguished, State Fire Marshal Investigator Bruce Thorlo conducted a fire scene investigation. It was immediately apparent that the fire had been intentionally set, based upon the strong odor of a flammable liquid, the presence of multiple points of origin, pour patterns, and the discovery of three containers containing the remnants of a flammable liquid. When Thornton arrived on the scene, he denied any responsibility for causing the fire.

The investigators were able to trace the point of sale of one of the fuel containers to a Lowe’s home improvement store in Springfield, Mo. Lowe’s was able to provide the investigators with a video recording depicting Larson purchasing a can of kerosene on March 17, 2009. Lowe’s was able to produce the sales ticket documenting the sale of the can.

The investigators then proceeded to a nearby Wal-Mart store. Wal-Mart security personnel were able to locate video footage showing Larson purchasing two cans of Coleman fuel, brown jersey gloves, black shirts, black winter hats, nylons, shoes, and other items. Gloves of the same type purchased by Larson were recovered from the scene of the fire.

On March 19, 2009, Larson acknowledged that it was she and her son who set the fire. Larson told investigators that Thornton promised her a “big fat bank account” in exchange for setting the fire.

Thornton approached Larson several months before the fire and asked if she knew anyone who would burn down his business for a price. During the ensuing months, Thornton repeatedly discussed the subject with Larson. When Larson agreed to assist in burning down the building, Thornton told her to soak everything in flammable liquid so that the businesses would be totally destroyed, maximizing his insurance claim.

Thornton told investigators that he was falling behind on his mortgage payments and expected to be reimbursed by his insurance company for his losses.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Kelleher. It was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Cedar County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department and the Missouri Division of Fire Safety.

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