CommunityNews

Black Hawk man guilty of torching bed & breakfast

For Insurance Money

PRESS RELEASE – Two jury trials and four years later, Terrence John Ballowe, 41, has been found guilty of setting the fire that seriously damaged the bed & breakfast he owned and operated in a heavily wooded area of Black Hawk in order to collect the insurance money.

On January 25, 2009, the Black Hawk Police Department (BHPD) received a 911 call reporting that the Creek Side Bed & Breakfast at 531 Chase Street was fully engulfed in flames. Just thirteen minutes earlier, Ballowe had been seen driving away from the building.

The bed & breakfast was open for business, but had no guests at the time.

Arson investigators from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were called to take the lead in the investigation. The results of the joint investigation of the CBI and BHPD determined that the fire had been intentionally set.

Ballowe’s insurance company hired their own arson investigator to conduct an independent investigation of the fire at 531Chase Street. Their investigator also found that the fire had been intentionally set.

Between April, 2008 and the date of the fire in January, 2009, Ballowe twice increased the insurance coverage on the property. He began with $500,000 in coverage and increased it to almost $750,000. In addition to increasing the coverage on the property at 531 Chase Street, he listed 531 Chase Street as his primary residence, in order to save money on the premiums. Ballowe actually lived at 410 Chase Street, one block away.

There was testimony at the trial that on the morning of the fire Ballowe had twice called his insurance company to verify his coverage.

Witnesses told the jurors that Ballowe had serious financial problems. Business was bad or non-existent for the bed & breakfast. He also had other failing business interests. Ballowe was delinquent on the mortgages on both the bed & breakfast and his home. Months prior to the fire, both properties went into foreclosure. He paid to redeem them out of foreclosure, but had not made a payment since that time.

Arson investigators took the jurors through the painstaking details of the arson investigation. They brought in and showed the jurors a charred door and flooring from the remains of the bed & breakfast.

Jurors heard testimony that investigators discovered that the fire alarm at the bed & breakfast had been disabled. They also heard that Ballowe had moved the computer from the bed & breakfast to his residence. Investigators found the power cable was still plugged into the wall outlet at the bed & breakfast at 531 Chase Street.

This case first went to trial in October, 2011. That jury could not reach a unanimous verdict and the court declared a mistrial. Prosecutors decided to go forward and try the case again.

Both the first trial and the trial that began on June 11, 2013 were held in Jefferson County at the request of the defense.

“This was a very difficult case,” said District Attorney Peter Weir, “However, when an arsonist puts at risk not only members of the community, but also the fire fighters who must battle the blaze, we must be aggressive in our pursuit of justice. Public safety is vital, but when someone uses arson to commit financial fraud, we are even more painstaking in our prosecution.

After 10 days of trial, the five men and seven women jury deliberated 3 ½ hours before they returned their guilty verdicts on June 25. They found Ballowe guilty of First Degree Arson (F3) and Third Degree Arson (F4). Sentencing has been set for July 31 at 8:00 a.m. in Division 14 of the Jefferson County Courthouse. Ballowe faces a potential sentence of up to 12 years in prison. Ballowe is out on $2,000 bond.

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