Murder Charge Dropped in Deadly Calif. Home Fire

October 25, 2010

San Diego County prosecutors have dropped a murder charge against a gas station owner accused of causing the death of a worker he paid to burn down his home.

The San Diego Union-Tribune says the decision was announced in an El Cajon courtroom.

Prosecutors claimed that James Kurtenbach paid an employee in 2008 to burn down his Ramona home to collect $915,000 in insurance. The 24-year-old man died when the home exploded.

Kurtenbach’s attorney, Paul Pfingst, argued that the employee set the blaze without his client’s knowledge.

Kurtenbach was convicted of arson, conspiracy and insurance fraud last week. Jurors deadlocked on a count of second-degree murder that carried a potential life sentence.

Kurtenbach still faces more than 12 years in prison.

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