“The investigation in 2006 was closed and the fire was ruled undetermined at that time. Here recently information was brought forward that was alleged that the fire was started intentionally by the individuals who were involved in a physical altercation at the residence,” Mike Motsinger, a special agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, announced this morning during a news conference in Ottumwa.
In March of 2006 a home in rural Wapello County burned and men were found dead inside. Those victims were Nathan Messer. He was 20 at the time and Seth Anderson, who was 22. They were both from Ottumwa. The fire happened early in the morning, shortly after a 21st birthday party at the residence ended in the early morning hours of March 5.
“The party had approximately 20-30 attendees…They were all around the age of 21,” Motsinger said. “At approximately 6:30 that morning of March 5, a neighbor observed…smoke and flames coming from the residence.”
Yesterday authorities arrested 27-year-old Zachary Dye of Council Bluffs and 28-year-old Christopher Yenger of Ottumwa. Each is being charged with two counts of felony murder.
Authorities conducted interviews with people who attended the birthday bash. They were told Yenger showed up uninvited and had been asked to leave after being involved in a fight at the party. The state fire marshal’s office is reviewing evidence collected from the scene ten years ago, but Motsinger told reporters he does not expect more arrests in this case.
“I believe we have the two men responsible,” Motsinger said today.
Motsinger told reporters the families of the two men who died in the fire are “devastated” by the news. Wapello County Sheriff Mark Miller said “new revelations” helped solve a case that hadn’t been forgotten.
“Law enforcement officers, we do this for the victims out there and their families,” Miller told reporters at the Ottumwa news conference. “…This is about real closure for families.”
According to Miller, the fight at the birthday party that happened before the fire was the kind of “standard disagreement” you see at gatherings of young people and “wasn’t much of an altercation at all.” Wapello County Attorney Gary Oldenburger told reporters the passage of time won’t have an impact on witness testimony.
“It was a pretty significant event in a lot of people’s lives, so they have a pretty clear memory,” Oldenburger said. “And as well, most of these people were interviewed in 2006.”
The two men who’ve been charged are being held in the Wapello County Jail on half a million dollar bonds.
(Reporting by Nick Davis, KBIZ, Ottumwa)