Former Mo. Mayor Gets 5 Years in Prison for Arson

August 7, 2007

A former mayor of Kirksville, Mo. was sentenced to more than five years in prison for setting fire to a popular hangout for college students that she owned in the northeast Missouri town.

Deborah Masten was also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine by U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson during sentencing in St. Louis.

“Committing arson creates a risk of bodily injury not only to the firefighters and other first responders, but also to the public in the surrounding areas,” U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said.

Masten, 52, did not have a listed telephone number. Her attorney, Doug Forsyth, declined comment.

Masten was serving as mayor and owned Too Tall Two Eatery and Spirits with her husband, Steve, when the fire was reported at 2:23 a.m. Jan. 1, 2005.

The establishment was a gathering spot for many years for students at Truman State University. Though badly damaged, it was able to reopen.

A few weeks after the fire, authorities announced it was intentionally set. The Kirksville Daily Express reported that investigators found a pile of trash out of place, and an accelerant had been used.

At the time, the Mastens offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the fire.

On March 3, 2005, investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms named Deborah Masten as a suspect. She was indicted by a federal grand jury late last year and convicted in May.

Prosecutors said the fire came after Masten had run up years of debts.

Masten was elected to the city council in 2003 and became mayor in April 2004 in a 3-2 vote by the council. Rather than a vote of the people, the town’s council selects the mayor each year from among its members.

She resigned as mayor in August 2005, when the restaurant/bar was sold and Masten moved to nearby Queen City, Mo. She now lists Kirksville as her address.

Kirksville, with 17,000 residents, is about 180 miles northwest of St. Louis.

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