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
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
"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
"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 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."