Dwight C. Henline, a 33-year-old Friday Harbor man is being charged with arson in the first degree in the United States District Court, Western District of Washington. His first appearance is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 4.
“Arson investigations fall under both local and federal jurisdictions,” Unites States Attorney Nick Brown explained. “Our jurisdiction is attached with interstate commerce, so we become involved when businesses are affected.” Other considerations to the federal charges were the scope of the fire, which destroyed three buildings with early estimates starting at ten million dollars in damage, and the fact federal investigators from the Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were involved in the early stages of the investigation. According to Emily Langlie, Communications Director for the United States Attorney’s office for the Western District of Washington, the federal charge, if convicted, carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, but ranges up to 20 years.
Henline has not pled either guilty or not guilty at this time as he is currently being charged with a criminal complaint. To move forward an indictment would need to be returned by the grand jury. It isn’t until an indictment is received that a defendant enters a plea.
Assistant United States Attorneys Erin H. Becker and Cecelia Gregson will be prosecuting the matter. Henline will likely have a federal public defender appointed, according to Langlie.
Charges of arson in the first degree in the San Juan County Superior Court against Henline were dismissed without prejudice, Monday, May 2 due to the federal charges being brought forward.
Details from the probable cause statement
On the morning of April 7, smoke billowed over the Town of Friday Harbor and areas of Spring and First Street were blocked off to traffic as firefighters worked to extinguish a fire that originated in the Windermere building.
According to the probable cause statement, a CCTV video from the Windermere office that faced toward the rear wooden deck area of Crystal Seas Kayaking shows a bright flash of light at approximately 10:04 p.m. on April 6. The flash of light lasted approximately 34 seconds before diminishing.
“Based upon an analysis of the video, it is the combined opinion of the subject matter experts from ATF national Response Team, that the video depicts fire dynamics consistent with an ignitable liquid,” reads the statement.
According to the ATF, it is not unusual for a fire caused by ignitable liquids to smolder for hours before flaring up once combustible materials dry out sufficiently.
On the evening of April 6, Henline was contacted by a Friday Harbor deputy while he was in his vehicle at the Washington State Ferries C-lot to serve a trespass warning letter for a local church property. Henline told Holt he was planning to leave the island and stay with a family member near Oak Harbor.
At 9:53 p.m., Henline is seen purchasing a bottle of lighter fluid from a local business, and at 10:04 p.m. the flash is visible on the CCTV footage. One minute later, a subject matching Henline’s description is seen quickly leaving the area between the Cask and Schooner and Crystal Seas Kayaking before retrieving a suitcase at the bottom of the steps by the Cheesecake Cafe. The same subject then moves toward the walk-on section of the ferry terminal, and at 10:13 p.m. Henline is seen boarding the ferry to Anacortes. At the Anacortes terminal, Henline is seen getting into a waiting sedan.