Fatal Arson Suspect Makes $2M Bail

A Poway man charged with second-degree murder in connection with an explosion and the death of his employee is out on bail, a local paper is reporting.

James Kurtenbach was released from jail Saturday after posting $2 million bail, according to the North County Times. He was arrested on suspicion of orchestrating a deadly explosion at his rental home in Ramona on Oct 31.

Joseph Neishewat, 24, died in the blast. He was an employee at a Ramona gas station owned by Kurtenbach. Watch video: Arson Victim's Mother Wants Answers.

In arguing for a high bail amount, deputy district attorney Fiona Khalil told the court that Kurtenbach had been planning to burn down the home since 2007. She said he increased insurance coverage on the home in February 2008.  Khalil had originally asked for bail set at $3.5 million because she believed Kurtenbach was preparing to flee to Canada, according to the North County Times. Khalil said Kurtenbach's marriage to a Canadian citizen allows him to cross the border without a passport, according to the paper.

She said the victim owed Kurtenbach money. She also said the suspect had previously asked Neishewat and another witness to burn down the house in late 2007.

The prosecutor also said Kurtenbach had a history of harrassing employees and one even took out a restraining order.

She said Kurtenbach was told about the fire at 3:45 a.m., and minutes later sent a text message to Neishewat.

"He texted the victim and he asked the victim if he wanted to blow off the lot at the Star gas station with a leaf blower. This is very unusual because the victim would not have done that in the normal course," she said.

Kurtenbach's defense attorney, Earll Pott,  told reporters, "At worst, this case is an arson that went terribly wrong not through any plan."

Read the North County Times' "Accused Murderer Posts $2 Million Bail" for more details.

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