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A Burning Question
By Paul Bieber
United States v. Blobaum
The evidence appeared overwhelming. A late afternoon explosion and fire in a large garage packed with cars and boats, where county sheriffs, the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office, and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) investigators determined there were “multiple areas of origin.” Investigators sent debris samples from each area of origin to the crime lab for testing, and each came back positive for the presence of gasoline. For many arson investigators, multiple areas of origin in the presence of an ignitable liquid, such as gasoline, can mean only one thing; an intentionally set fire. When the fire investigators learned that the first firefighters to arrive at Northside Auto Body found the burning building locked up tight, with every door and window closed and no signs of forcible entry, their investigation shifted to the only person with a key to the front door — the owner, Andrew Blobaum.
Two years later during Blobaum’s criminal trial in feder
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