HAMMOND -- Accused arsonist Michael Weber was freed Monday, although U.S.

Attorney Jon DeGuilio promised a further look into the fire that killed Weber's

family nearly five years ago.

A joint motion to dismiss the charges, prepared by the government and agreed to

by Weber's defense attorneys, was swiftly approved by U.S. Magistrate Andrew


Weber's sudden release Monday was unexpected by all sides.

It comes after Weber's defense attorneys were informed by federal prosecutors

Friday that a new review of the case by the U.S. Division of Alcohol, Tobacco

and Firearms concluded the arson ruling as determined by the Indiana State Fire

Marshal "is not supported with reasonable degree of scientific certainty."

Weber's attorneys, John Maksimovich of Highland and William Padula of Munster,

received the call on their way back from McFarland, Wis., where they had taken

signed statements from two witnesses who could place Weber in Wisconsin in the

hours before the fire.

During Weber's detention hearing in January, Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane

Berkowitz argued the government had "no alibi, no other information to indicate

that he was in McFarland."

The two discrepancies prompted the government to ask the court to dismiss the

charges -- for now.

"We do intend to conduct an aggressive investigation in the hopes of getting at

the truth of the matter," DeGuilio said. "(ATF investigators) are not saying it

was not arson. They're simply questioning the way the conclusion was reached."

Weber, meanwhile, said he, too, will continue to look for answers.

"Hopefully now there will be more cooperation in trying to find out what

happened," he said. "I feel if these people would have put as much effort into

working with me as they did to try to prove me guilty, we might have found out

the truth, whether it be arson or accident."

Weber, 44, has been jailed since Dec. 17 following his arrest by federal

authorities. He was charged with arson resulting in the death of his wife,

Marsha, 35, and their four children. The five perished during a fire in their

Hebron mobile home June 30, 1994.

The case has been fraught with troubling inconsistencies, which nevertheless

led to Weber's indictment by a federal grand jury the same day as his arrest.

"We did our work," Maksimovich said. "We convinced the government they didn't

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have a case. They had zero evidence that there was even a crime, never mind

that Weber was connected to it."

Maksimovich said there was only a "very tiny window of opportunity" for Weber

to have committed the crime "if all the time factors are taken into account."

During Monday's hearing, Berkowitz asked the court to admonish Weber to stay

away from his dead wife's family.

Rodovich said he couldn't impose such an order on Weber, who had been held in

federal custody without bond, but could give him some "friendly advice."

"It's certainly within your best interest not to try to contact your former

in-laws," Rodovich told Weber. "They think you did it."

But three women who eagerly awaited Weber's release were equally adamant about

his innocence.

"I've got his clothes ready, corn beef in the oven and wine in the fridge,"

said his jubilant mother, Mary Miller of Wheatfield. "I've said all along this

was going to be thrown out of court because he didn't do it."

"Michael didn't do it," said Weber's sister, Mary Lane of Buffalo, a small town

outside of Monticello. "This has ruined his life."

Since the fire, the once friendly families of Michael and Marsha Weber have

experienced deep divisions.

Weber's sudden release left his former employer, Tom Rowe of Bork Transport

Inc., "totally confused and shocked."

"I'm happy for Mike and his family," he said. "But I'm really saddened for the

Navarros. I know they want some closure, and I think this has only pitted them

further apart."

"I would have thought this information they've now come up with would have been

discussed years ago," Rowe added.

DeGuilio said he thought that a fair comment.

"The better answer might come from the ATF," he said. "What I can tell you is

these agents had not looked into the case with any significant degree prior to

the indictment."

The two ATF agents are certified fire investigators, unlike the lead

investigator on the case, ATF agent Cynthia Beebe.

"The opinion was unexpected," DeGuilio said. "We're going to do everything we

can to seek the truth in this matter."

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