Gas Station, Home Searched in Deadly Arson Case

Sheriff's deputies searched a gas station in Ramona and a 6,500-square-foot home in Poway Thursday, both owned by a man whose house burned down, killing one of his employees.

The Stars station on Main Street was closed and surrounded by crime-scene tape. A deputy was posted outside while investigators were inside.

Sheriff's deputies showed up this morning, told everybody to leave and taped off the area with crime-scene tape, nearby business owner Ralph Bradley said. They took items from the station including photographs. Bradley had been inside Kurtenbach's office at the  gas station before and said it would be difficult to find anything. "There were papers everywhere," said Bradley. "I mean there was no rhyme or reason to it. It was just stacks of paper everywhere. It's going to take them awhile to go through it all."

The station is owned by James A. Kurtenbach of Poway. On Oct. 31, a house Kurtenbach owns exploded and burned. Joseph Nesheiwat, an employee of Kurtenbach's gas station, died in the blast. Authorities concluded the cause of the explosion and fire was arson.

A published report says the owner owed more than $50,000 in combined taxes along with other financial obligations.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Kurtenbach, 47, was found to have committed fraud two years ago in Nebraska for using fake tax returns to sell a gas station he owned.  The report also said he owes $16,600 in back taxes on his Ramona home and $40,000 on a gas station he owns.  In addition, Kurtenbach's home in Poway was purchased for $2.5 million, and he pays $10,000 a month in alimony and child support to his former wife with money from the Ramona gas station, the report said.

Investigators say no arrests have been made and the search warrants are sealed.

Contact Us