Hung jury in arson trial

The federal trial against Dwight C. Henline, a 34-year-old Friday Harbor man, concluded.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after an 11-day trial, and more than two days of deliberations, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

Henline was suspected to have caused a fire that destroyed three historical buildings and damaged several others in April of 2022 in downtown Friday Harbor.

Henline pleaded not guilty to arson on May 26 in the U.S District Court of Western Washington. The trial started on Nov. 14.

In the coming weeks, prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington will evaluate whether to retry the matter. If the government decides not to seek a second trial, the case will be dismissed.

This story will be updated as more information develops.

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.

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.

On April 15 sheriff’s detectives received information that Henline was at a residence in Langley, Washington and attempted to contact him unsuccessfully. A search warrant was served on the residence for evidence of the arson with numerous articles being removed.

On April 16, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office obtained a warrant for the arrest of Henline. That same day, around 4:30 p.m., he was taken into custody by Island County deputies and transported to the Island County jail. Henline will be transferred to San Juan County for an appearance in court. Charges were later dropped against him in San Juan County as federal charges were brought forth.