Wakonda man’s arson trial scheduled

Wakonda man's arson trial scheduled by David Lias The trial of a Wakonda man charged with arson over a year ago is finally scheduled to get under way.

In November.

The long wait for the trial to finally be scheduled in circuit court at the Clay County Courthouse can�t entirely be blamed on the court�s full calendar, however.

George �Al� Davis was originally scheduled to appear in court last December, but lab work on the evidence was not completed.

The trial was then rescheduled for early January. But at that time, Clay County State�s Attorney Tami Bern was still waiting for the test results on forensic evidence needed for prosecution.

Bern said recently that a motion filed by Davis to continue the scheduling process of his trial was also successful. That pushed the trial�s scheduled start back to Nov. 15.

Davis, who was a member of the Wakonda Fire Department, was arrested in June 1998 for allegedly trying to burn down the rectory of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Wakonda on April 25, 1998.

Davis was arrested after he was indicted by a Clay County grand jury on May 27, 1998. The indictment alleges that on or about April 25, Davis committed second degree arson by intentionally trying to set fire to the rectory.

The indictment also includes an alternative charge of third degree arson.

Davis also was indicted on first degree burglary charges, and in the alternative, third degree burglary for allegedly entering the rectory with the intent to commit a crime, in this case, arson.

The rectory was unoccupied at the time Davis allegedly tried to set it on fire.

Search warrant documents reveal several ironic aspects of this case. An affidavit requesting a search warrant, filed April 29, 1998 by Clay County Deputy Sheriff Les Kephart, states that the sheriff�s office received a report of a fire occurring at the rectory on April 25, and the sheriff's office began an investigation.

According to the affidavit, the fire was reported by Davis. He stated that he observed a fire inside of the rectory while walking his dog.

The fire, which extinguished voluntarily, appeared to have been set by someone breaking a window of the rectory and throwing a paper napkin or paper towel covered with accelerant into the residence.

Davis had a cut along his right hand which would be consistent with the breaking of the window, according to the affidavit. Firemen also witnessed blood on his jacket and jeans.

This injury would not have incurred while responding to the fire, the affidavit states, because Davis put on his fire gear prior to responding. The blood was on his clothes that were underneath his fire gear.

Circuit Court Judge Arthur Rusch issued a search warrant, and local law enforcement authorities visited the residence owned by Herman L. and Ruth M. Davis in Wakonda on April 29, 1998.

During that search, according to a document dated May 5, 1998, Kephart seized several rolls of paper towels, one empty jug of paint thinner, used paper towels, one green first responder jacket, and three vials of gas from a gas can in the Davis garage.

Further details of this case are revealed in a second application and affidavit in support of a request for a search warrant filed by Kephart on June 15, 1998 with the First Judicial Circuit Court.

The request repeats what had been documented earlier: that Davis reported that he observed a fire inside of the rectory while walking his dog during a heavy rainstorm on April 25.

It also reveals that investigators concluded that the fire had been set in the rectory after a window had been broken to gain entry to the residence.

It also appeared that the person breaking the window sustained a bleeding injury as law enforcement recovered a piece of the broken window with blood on it.

The arsonist had apparently dabbed his wounds on paper towels which were also present at the scene. The paper towels had not burned up during the fire.

Paper towels with a similar design or logo were recovered from Davis� residence subsequent to the previous search warrant issued by the court.

The piece of broken glass out of the rectory�s front door has what appears to be a fingerprint on it. The fingerprint and the blood was on the side of the glass which was facing the floor.

Law enforcement officials also believed, at the time they sought the second search warrant, that the paper towels may also contain fingerprint evidence.

The second affidavit again stated that Davis had a cut along his right hand which would be consistent with the breaking of a window. Firemen also witnessed blood on his jacket and jeans.

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