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Subway arsonist gets small victory in appeal

DES MOINES – A Mason City man who was arrested, tried and convicted for setting his place of employment on fire and then caught with drugs has lost his appeal for the most part but got a small victory at the same time.

Ethan Aron Miller, age 24 appealed after a jury found him guilty of first-degree arson, first-degree burglary, second-degree theft, and possession of marijuana. The Iowa Court of Appeals found that although there was no direct evidence regarding the perpetrator’s identity, the overwhelming circumstantial evidence shows Miller committed the acts in question. However, because no one was in the store at the time of the burglary, trial counsel was ineffective in failing to move for a judgment of acquittal on the first-degree burglary charge. The court then reversed Miller’s first-degree-burglary conviction, and remanded to the district court for entry of judgment on the lesser-included offense of second-degree burglary. All other aspects of his conviction were upheld.

A jury found Miller guilty on October 27, 2015. Miller was accused of setting a fire on December 29, 2014, at the Subway restaurant, located at 421 South Illinois. He allegedly set the fire to conceal his theft from there. The restaurant was so badly damaged it had to close for months.  It later re-opened.

During sentencing, Judge James Drew ordered Miller to serve concurrent sentences of up to 25 years in prison on each of the first degree arson and first degree burglary charges, up to five years on the second degree theft charge, and 30 days in jail on the marijuana possession charge. A criminal mischief charge was dismissed.

Miller was also ordered to pay $10,539.74 in fines, fees and restitution.

Miller remains in the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility.

Ethan Miller
Ethan Miller in prison
Front of the store boarded up
Front of the store boarded up after the fire
Northeast view of the strip mall
Northeast view of the strip mall
Northeast view of the strip mall
Northeast view of the strip mall


Debris left behind from the fire
Debris left behind from the fire
Debris left behind from the fire
Debris left behind from the fire
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