|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - November 2009
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Man found guilty of arson in 2004 Cedar Point fire
Polk County Enterprise - November 2009
LIVINGSTON — David Earl Stanley, 58 of Conroe, was found guilty of arson, a first degree felony Nov. 18 following a two-day jury trial in Judge Robert Trapp’s 411th District Court. Jurors deliberated about 40 minutes before the verdict was returned Wednesday morning. Stanley had been indicted for the March 4, 2004 destruction of his home at 280 Dove Island in Cedar Point subdivision near Onalaska. The fire, which was reported to the Onalaska Fire Department at approximately 2:30 a.m., resulted in the total loss of the dwelling. During the trial, representatives from American Modern Home Insurance Company testified that the insurer had provided Stanley with nearly $50,000 in coverage for the dwelling and its contents, and had paid the policy limits to Stanley following the 2004 fire. Following the initial fire call, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department received information that Stanley had previously discussed with others the idea of paying someone to burn his home. Investigators Kyle Morris and Mark Cheney with the Texas State Fire Marshal’s office conducted a cause and origin investigation at the residence. Following an “alert” for the presence of accelerants by a trained arson detection canine, subsequent debris samples tested positive for the presence of fuel oil at the State Fire Marshal’s crime laboratory in Austin.
The Fire Marshal’s office officially classified the fire as “incendiary” after determining the fire was intentionally set. While the Polk County investigation was under way, officials with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Violent Offenders Task Force in Lake Charles, La. began investigating Stanley in that jurisdiction for suspected federal firearms violations. Detective Kevin Kirkham, a BATF liaison for the Lake Charles Police Department, testified that his office had received information that Stanley, a previously convicted felon, had moved to the Lake Charles area shortly before the Polk County fire. He was observed moving boxes of household furnishings most likely from his home in Texas. He was also observed to be in possession of numerous weapons, in violation of federal law. A search warrant was later obtained and executed at Stanley’s Louisiana home resulting in the recovery of multiple weapons and other evidence. At trial, Stanley’s stepgranddaughter, Megan Hashaw of Sulphur, La., testified that Stanley had approached her in February 2004 wanting to know if she knew anyone who might be interested in burning his home for $1,000. Afterward, Justin Thibodeaux, also of Sulphur, La., testified that Stanley had offered him $1,000 to burn the Polk County home and suggested that the best way to approach the property would be by boat, due to the presence of security cameras in the subdivision.
Thibodeaux testified that he declined the offer, but discussed the proposal with his wife who later communicated the information to Lake Charles authorities. In his closing argument to the jury, Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon said that Stanley was the “only person with a motive to destroy the home and had, in fact, received thousands of dollars from the insurance policy.” Hon described arson as a serious crime which ultimately costs citizens in our community lots of money in the form of higher insurance premiums. Hon also stated the fire “exposed firefighters with the Onalaska Fire Department to an unnecessary risk of injury in their efforts to extinguish an intentionally set fire.” Afterward, Hon commented that he was extremely pleased with the jury’s verdict. “Although this jury didn’t know it, David Stanley is a career criminal who has an extensive criminal history dating back to the late 1960s. He has been to prison in Arizona and in federal prison as recently as 2006,” Hon said. “Based upon white supremacist items found in his home by Louisiana officials in their 2004 search, we believe that Stanley also has connections to the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang,” Hon said. Stanley is scheduled for a January sentencing hearing before Judge Trapp. He faces a potential sentence of five to 99 years or life in prison.