Terry Ballowe found guilty of schmucky plan to torch his bed & breakfast
Terry Ballowe definitely isn't the dumbest criminal to win coveted Schmuck of the Week honors.
After all, it took two separate trials over a span of four years to finally convict him of torching Creek Side Bed & Breakfast in Black Hawk, presumably for the insurance money -- which he never actually received.
In the end, though, Ballowe left plenty of ammunition with which prosecutors were able to blast him. And blast him they did.
Judging by a now out-of-date listing for Creek Side, located at 531 Chase Street in Black Hawk, the properly was gorgeous. Here's a photo of the joint:
The forty acre parcel in Gilpin County was priced at $1.25 million.
Why would Ballowe, 41, want to turn this lovely piece of Colorado into a charcoal briquette -- which it nearly became on January 25, 2009, when responders found the place in flames following a 911 call made minutes before he was seen splitting?
According to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office, business was bad, causing him to fall behind on the mortgage there and at his nearby home, about a block away.
Both structures eventually went into foreclosure, and while Ballowe had forked over enough green to change their status, he'd made no additional payments prior to the fire, which took place when the operation was open but no guests were on hand.
In addition, he listed his primary residence as Creek Side, not his house, presumably to save on insurance premiums. He jacked up the latter two times during the year before the blaze, with his coverage amount ultimately going from $500,000 to $750,000.
Not suspicious enough? Testimony at the trial revealed that he called his insurance company on the morning of the fire to check on his policy. And then he phoned again on the same topic.
Shockingly enough, a representative of Ballowe's insurance company subsequently concluded that the fire had been caused by arson, and agents with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation concurred.
Criminal charges followed, and Ballowe was put on trial in October 2011. However, the jury was unable to reach a verdict -- so prosecutors decided to try again.
The latest jurors got to consider physical evidence from the scene as well as clues of the more circumstantial kind. For instance, investigators said the fire alarm at Creek Side had been disabled, and the computer was moved to Ballowe's house in what appears to have been a rush, since the power cord was still plugged into wall at the bed and breakfast.
The second attempt to convict Ballowe proved to be the charm. On Tuesday, after a ten day trial, the jury returned verdicts of guilty for both first-degree arson and third-degree arson. Ballowe will be sentenced on July 31; he faces up to twelve years in prison.
If the heat wasn't on before, it certainly is now.
Here's a larger look at Ballowe's mug shot.
More from our Schmuck of the Week archive: "Mark Bote's prosecution for bomb threat on plane could turn into schmucky business."