Man charged with arson for burning down house
WASHINGTON, Iowa (GTNS) – A man accused of setting fire to a building he was renting has been extradited from Nebraska and had his first appearance on Monday. Bond for Jonathan Leo Beam of Washington has been set at $20,000 cash only.
Beam is charged with second degree arson, a Class C felony that can bring up to 10 years in prison, in connection with the fire that destroyed a house at 2180 Lexington Blvd. on Oct. 1. Court records say that the charge is based on his setting fire with the intent to destroy property that did not belong to him and that property exceeds $500 in value. His preliminary hearing date is Tuesday.
At 1:45 p.m. on Oct. 1, the Washington County Communications Center received several calls about a house fire at 2180 Lexington Blvd., which is right across from the Washington County Sheriff’s office, a press release from the Washington County Communications Center said.
Callers reported seeing smoke and flames from the residence, which is listed as Jonathan Beam’s residence, the press release said. The Washington Fire Department, Kalona Fire Department, Ainsworth Fire Department, Brighton Fire Department, Washington Police Department, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Department all responded to the scene. The state fire marshal’s office was contacted and also reported to the scene of the fire, according to the press release.
No one was in the house at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported.
A search warrant was executed at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the same residence, the Washington County Communications Center call log said. John McMahon is the owner of the home.
According to court records, Sgt. Shawn Ellingson, the investigator for the Washington Police Department, stopped at Beam’s place of business. He was told Beam had left in his van 30 minutes earlier to go to his residence. Ellingson reported that when he arrived at the residence at about 2 p.m. it was totally engulfed.
Ellingson reported that he spoke with a witness who said he was driving west on Lexington Boulevard when he saw smoke. As he approached the driveway, he could see smoke and flames. He also saw a white car leave the driveway and head west. The witness stated the house was clearly on fire as the white car left the driveway.
The report also said that Beam had been served divorce papers on Sept. 30 and that he was going to court about eviction from the house on Oct. 2.
Ellingson also reported reviewing two surveillance videos from cameras at the Washington County Jail. The videos showed the green van pull into the driveway at 1:10 p.m. The report said that the videos show a male subject matching Beam’s description going back and forth from the house, the white car and the van several times. The videos also show smoke and fire coming from the house at 1:41 p.m. and that the white car, determined to be a 2005 white Lincoln Town Car, then left and headed west.
The court record shows that after the fire was out, burn patterns consistent with accelerants being poured on the floors of the hallways were found. The records also reported that outside of the west kitchen door, two 15-minute flare packages were located on the ground. The report states that there were supposed to be three flares in each package; however, the flares were not located.
Beam was located in Hebron, Neb. in a white Lincoln Town Car with a license plate matching the one from the video. A search warrant was served on his person and the vehicle, which recovered Beam’s clothes and shoes smelling strongly of gasoline. A search of the vehicle located five road flares that matched the packaging at the scene. Receipts were found showing the purchase of gas, flares and a torch on the morning of the fire.
Beam was read his rights and signed a waiver to agree to speak with Ellingson. Beam admitted to buying the items for the purpose of burning the house. The court record indicated Beam said he poured gas and fuel oil “everywhere” — not the basement, because he had run out, the report said — and that he threw a partially full gas can down the basement steps. He said he got gas and fuel oil on his clothes and shoes. He said that he used one of the torches and threw it into the house to start the fire. Beam said the house was smoking, and he saw smoke coming from the eaves as he pulled out. The report said Beam planned to plead guilty.
“He said he had a huge weight lifted from his shoulders as he drove away,” the court report said.