Rash of arsons leads to three arrests

photo from the scene of the Brashear Park fire, taken by KTVO's Brian Doogs

UPDATED: June 12 4:15 p.m.

Additional charges have been filed against the three people charged. Adair County Prosecutor Matt Wilson has filed two additional counts of knowingly burning or exploding. That makes it a total of five counts of the felony charge.

One of the three suspects, Athena Wolter, 19, of Knox City, was in court Tuesday on a motion for bond reduction. Judge Kristie Swaim took the motion under advisement. Wolter was released on $10,000 cash bond later in the day.

The remaining suspects, Shelby Snelling, 20, of Baring and Jaston Boone, 17, of Edina, remain behind bars under $10,000 cash only bond.


Local authorities have arrested three people after a rash of arsons occurred throughout Kirksville.

They include Shelby Snelling, 20, of Baring, Mo., Athena Wolter, 19, of Knox City, Mo. and Jaston Boone, 17, of Edina, Mo.

According to the Adair County Prosecutor's Office, they are charged with three felony counts of knowingly burning or exploding and one misdemeanor count of possession of an intoxicating liquor by a minor.

According to Kirksville Fire Chief Randy Behrens, there were nearly half a dozen arsons reported Thursday night, the first one at 10:35 p.m.

"We had five suspicious fires with an accumulation of burning trash, burning some limbs, trash can, as short little bridge, with the last one coming in at Brashear Park burning playground equipment," said Behrens.

The arsons include:

-Brashear Park playground equipment reported around 12:05 a.m. Friday

-A pedestrian bridge in the 1300 block of Boundary Street reported around 12:03 a.m. Friday

-A Veolia waste can on the 1200 block of East Randolph Street reported around 11:03 p.m. Thursday

-Tree limbs on New and Illinois Streets reported around 11 p.m.

-Fire at Forest-Llewellyn Cemetery reported around 11 p.m.

"I think after the second one came in, 20 minutes after the first just have a fire out in the cemetery, is not normal," said Behrens. "And then have a brush fire, trash fire set at same time in a trash can. We were already thinking we had somebody doing something."

Witnesses living near Brashear Park said they thought it was a house fire at first.

"It went up pretty fast. About 20-foot flames. It looked like a house was on fire," said Jeremy Maggart, a Kirksville resident.

Behrens estimates the damage to the playground equipment to be around $30,000.

Kirksville Police Chief Jim Hughes said the police department and Adair County Sheriff's Office had acquired a description of a vehicle seen at one the fires.

A deputy used that description to stop the vehicle in the 900 block of North Franklin Street around 12:44 a.m.

A Kirksville police officer then arrived on scene and after searching the vehicle, Hughes said they had probable cause to arrest the three occupants and link them to at least three of the fires.

According to court documents, officers found a large bottle of Vodka in the car, along with charcoal lighter fluid and multiple lighters.

The documents indicate that after further investigation, Wolter admitted to setting the fire at Brashear Park by taking a large couch cushion and soaking it in lighter fluid and putting it under one of the slides and then lighting it on fire.

The damage that is left behind has residents outraged.

"That's so sad, I mean that stuff is so expensive," said Shirlene Lloyd, a resident of Greentop, Mo. "And it's taking away from the little kids."

"We come over here as a family pretty much everyday so we're pretty upset as a neighborhood, too," said Maggart.

"It's a shock. It's a very uplifting place, usually. Kids playing and parents sitting around," said Michael Hylton, a Kirksville resident living near Brashear Park. "To those kids, whoever did it, I'd assume they feel regret. If they don't, they need some psychological treatment."

"The biggest thing that I'm really upset about is the senselessness of setting the fires is bad enough but to get a playground, that kids play on everyday...we just got it replaced," said Behrens. "It's a brand-new playground."

Shelby Snelling, Athena Wolter, and Jaston Boone are being held at the Adair County Jail on $10,000 cash-only bond.

Preliminary hearings for Snelling, Wolter and Boone have been scheduled for June 13th before Judge Kristie Swaim