Arson is blamed for store fire

Saturday, December 4, 2004

The Route Z and Highway 25 food and fuel shop in Gordonville was destroyed by an arsonist, a fire investigator said Friday.

Butch Amann, a state fire marshal, would not release any details about why he thinks so but said the evidence points to criminal activity.

The fire destroyed the convenience store building early Thursday morning with most of the debris falling into the basement. The 911 call reporting the fire came in at 4:10 a.m.

Amann said Thursday afternoon that he didn't think investigators would get to inspect the scene for a couple of days. However, heavy equipment was made available more quickly than he expected, and investigators worked under lights late into Thursday evening.

"We're pretty much done with the scene," he said Friday morning.

Amann said there was so much fire damage that the evidence collected from the scene was a bit more sensitive than from other fires.

"It's not like the entire building was left to pick through," he said. "The things we found, because of the amount of destruction, is a lot less, so we have to be more guarded with the information we give out. We have lots of samples that have been sent to be analyzed."

Amann said he thinks investigators have "a good shot" at finding the arsonist. "But you never can say for sure."

The building is owned by Greg and Lisa Sparkman, who own and operate Sparkman Auto and Circle S. Saddle Co., both in Gordonville. They operated the convenience store for a couple of years and then leased the building to Stanley and Vickie Lanpher of Whitewater.

Amann confirmed that the Lanphers have already experienced a major loss by fire this year. In July, a fire destroyed their Whitewater home. Amann said that fire's cause was undetermined.

Asked for a comment or a reaction to the situation, Lanpher said, "I did not do this." He declined to answer any other questions before talking with a lawyer.

Reached at his car dealership Friday afternoon, Greg Sparkman said he knew little about the investigation.

"I'm going to be the one coming out on the short end of the stick," he said.

Sparkman said he did not know what kind of insurance settlement he and his wife would receive.

"It's a mess," he said.

Sparkman said the Lanphers had another year left on their lease.

He said he plans to rebuild and either lease the building again or sell it. He said a convenience store is needed in Gordonville.

Amann said he didn't know how long the investigation might take.

"From this point on, things slow down," he said. "It definitely doesn't work like 'CSI,' where you have it worked out in an hour."


Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: