July 4, 2008

Suspicious Fire Destroys Newspaper Building: Two Arrested, Charged With Arson in DeKalb County Blaze

By Ray Scherer, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.

Jul. 4--MAYSVILLE, Mo. -- Terry Pearl didn't let a devastating fire change his plans to publish a weekly newspaper Thursday.

Mr. Pearl, publisher of the DeKalb County Record-Herald, has other decisions to make after a suspicious early morning fire destroyed his business. This week's pages were ready for publication but perished in the fire.

Two men were taken into custody after the fire, DeKalb County Sheriff Wes Raines said. Kevin Brumley, 19, of Maysville, and Wesley Leverenz, 18, a former Maysville resident, were charged later Thursday with the Class B felony of first-degree arson. Both men were taken to the Daviess-DeKalb County Regional Jail in Pattonsburg, Mo., pending arraignment. Cash bonds for each were set at $500,000.

The blaze also burned most of Mr. Pearl's personal possessions -- such as photos of his children that hung on a wall -- and the belongings of his twin brother, Gerry. No injuries were reported. Both men lived in the building that shared space with the newspaper at 201 N. Polk St, just off the courthouse square.

"I'll build back," he said, standing on the DeKalb County Courthouse square as firefighters cooled down the site. "In the meantime, I'm going to have temporary office space ... I feel very fortunate."

He intended to compose this week's edition of the Record-Herald again later in the day at the Tri-County News in King City, Mo. Another brother, Larry Pearl, is the publisher.

Firefighters with the Central DeKalb County Fire Protection District and nearby departments began responding to the fire shortly after 1 a.m. Mr. Pearl had changed his customary plans of sleeping upstairs because an open window let rain pour in onto his bed. He chose instead to sleep downstairs on a couch.

He heard two individuals outside, in back of the business.

"I said, 'Get the hell out of here,'" Mr. Pearl said. The individuals then took off running.

His twin brother noticed the building was on fire and told him to get out.

"The sheriff told me they were bored," Mr. Pearl said of the alleged arsonists' motives.

An investigation by law enforcement and the Missouri State Fire Marshal's office revealed that both men were seen in the area and fled on foot after an explosion on the newspaper's front porch, Mr. Raines said.

Small groups of onlookers talked about the fire as Ameren crews and telephone repairmen worked to restore services to the nearby courthouse.

Local barber Tom Bertram was among the first of Maysville's residents to head for the scene after noticing the fire from the front door of his shop on the square.

"I hate to see this happen," he said.

Mr. Bertram served with Central DeKalb's firefighters for 22 years, but couldn't recall a blaze in the city's history that rivaled the Record-Herald's.

Mr. Pearl has owned the newspaper for 21 years. According to the DeKalb County Historical Society, the business moved to its most recent location in 1976.

Ray Scherer can be reached at [email protected]


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