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Crime & Courts

Arson defendant will be retried

Judge declared a mistrial last week amid hung jury

WOODSTOCK – An Elmhurst man accused of setting fire to the wrong house as revenge for a drug debt will have his day in court – again.

Jurors last week were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on aggravated arson charges against 24-year-old Joseph O. Ziegler.

They deliberated for more than nine hours and found the Elmhurst man guilty of burglary.

“The state has every intention of retrying Mr. Ziegler,” Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Zalud told a McHenry County judge on Wednesday.

Judge Sharon Prather set Ziegler’s retrial for Feb. 4.

This time around, he will be represented by McHenry County Assistant Public Defender Rick Behof. Behof was appointed when Ziegler’s private counsel withdrew for financial reasons.

During his weeklong trial, prosecutors said that Ziegler started the fire in August 2012 because he believed another man stole his drugs. But prosecutors say Ziegler missed his revenge target and instead torched Roseanne Aitken’s 5113 Westwood Drive home in Pistakee Highlands.

The blaze left Aitken’s home uninhabitable, and two vehicles were destroyed. No one was injured.

Ziegler’s former defense attorney, Edward Edens, argued there were no witnesses or fingerprint evidence connecting Ziegler to the crime.

The burglary charge carries a sentencing range between three and seven years. If convicted of the most serious charge against him, Ziegler could face a maximum of 30 years in prison. He’s been in custody at McHenry County Jail since his arrest.

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