New charge filed against Kurtenbach

James Kurtenbach denied the claim of a new charge filed against him this week that alleges he provided false statistical information about his employees at a Ramona gas station to pay a premium for workers’ compensation insurance.

Kurtenbach, 48, was arraigned on the new charge March 9 in El Cajon Superior Court, where he also faces charges of murder, arson and insurance fraud stemming from the death of his employee, Joseph Nesheiwat, 24, on Oct. 31, 2008. Nesheiwat died of burns and smoke inhalation after a fire destroyed Kurtenbach’s vacant home in Ramona.

Kurtenbach also has changed lawyers, and veteran defense attorney Kerry Steigerwalt made an appearance with him before Judge Peter Deddeh.

Because Steigerwalt has just started to prepare a defense, he asked for a delay in the March 12 preliminary hearing, and it was granted.

Kurtenbach waived his right to have a speedy hearing, and it was reset for May 27. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He was arrested Dec. 18, and posted $2 million bond on Jan. 31.

Deputy District Attorney Fiona Khalil said the fire in the home was started with gasoline late on Halloween night. She said only moments after Kurtenbach was informed of the fire at his house, he sent two text messages to Nesheiwat. Khalil said Kurtenbach had not been told the identify of the victim.

The prosecutor says Kurtenbach increased the insurance coverage of the vacant home from $680,000 to $900,000 about eight months before the fire. She said Kurtenbach increased the coverage by an additional $15,000 several days before the fire.

The house, at 16421 N. Woodson Drive, was destroyed, and a neighbor’s house was damaged in the explosion. Kurtenbach owns Stars Gas Station in Ramona and lives in Poway.

   
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