BLACK HAWK, Colo. - A 41-year-old bed and breakfast owner in Black Hawk was sentenced Wednesday for setting a fire in order to collect insurance money.
Terrence John Ballowe owned the Creek Side Bed and Breakfast at 531 Chase Street in 2009. Court testimony revealed that police received a 911 call on Jan. 25 of that year, reporting the bed and breakfast completely engulfed in flames.
An investigation found that Ballowe was seen driving away from the building 13 minutes earlier.
Arson investigators from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation were called to take the lead in the investigation. Together with the Black Hawk Police Department, they determined the fire had been intentionally set.
Further investigation revealed that between April, 2008 and the date of the fire, Ballowe twice increased the insurance coverage on the property. There was testimony at the trial that on the morning of the fire, Ballowe had twice called his insurance company to verify his coverage.
Witnesses told the jury that Ballowe had serious financial problems. Business was bad or nonexistent for the bed and breakfast. He also had other failing business interests and was delinquent on the mortgages on both the bed and breakfast and his home, according to testimony.
Jurors also heard that the alarm system at the business had been disabled. They also heard that Ballowe had moved the computer from the bed and breakfast to his residence prior to the fire.
Ballowe was found guilty of first-degree arson and third-degree arson last June.
"This was a very difficult case," said District Attorney Peter Weir. "This business was located in a densely wooded area of Gilpin County. The fire danger created by Mr. Ballowe was extraordinary. In addition to the half million dollar loss of the actual property, the lives of the firefighters as well as citizens who live in Gilpin County were at serious risk. Justice requires that arsonists, particularly those who use arson to commit financial fraud, must be held fully accountable."
Prosecutors requested a prison sentence for Ballowe. Instead, District Judge Jack Berryhill sentenced Ballowe to two years in a jail work release program and five years probation. Ballowe was also ordered to complete 480 hours of community service. Berryhill ordered that the entire sentence be served in Gilpin County, where the fire was set.
Ballowe remains free on $2,000 bond, pending a hearing which on Sept. 25 at which time the judge will consider post-conviction motions.
A previous trial in 2011 ended in a mistrial after a jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.