Case against suspected paid arsonist starts again

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COLUMBIA - A case against a suspected arsonist for hire was back in court Tuesday.

A judge declared the case a mistrial in February because the jury could not decide on a verdict.  

The prosecutor charged James Hall with first-degree arson, saying Hall was offered money to set a mobile home on fire. A woman was inside at the time. 

Prosecutors have said before Hall is connected to Mehrdad Fotoohighiam, his former employer, who allegedly offered him $500 to burn the trailer near Rock Quarry Road and Grindstone Parkway. 

Prosecutors say Fotoohighiam hired Hall to burn the trailer because the owner, also the victim in this case, would not sell it to him. The woman said Fotoohighiam never approached her to buy the property. 

In a separate case, Fotoohighiam is charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He is currently being held in the Boone County Jail without bond. 

Attorneys questioned more than 50 potential jurors Tuesday.

After a jury was selected, then came opening statements. 

The prosecutor, Philip Groenweghe, talked about the day of the fire and said the victim barley got out alive.

Hall's attorney, T.J. Kirsch, said there is no evidence that puts Hall at the scene of the crime.

The prosecution called six witnesses to the stand — including the victim who suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning and second-degree burns. 

In court, she said she managed to escape through a window. She said her hands were so swollen she couldn't use them. 

Hall's trail is expected to last three days.