DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of Kentucky

For Immediate Release

Friday, November 21, 2014
David J. Hale
, United States Attorney
Contact: Stephanie Collins

Warren County, Kentucky, Woman Convicted of Setting Fire to the Horse Cave, Kentucky Dollar General Store

Jurors deliberated just over two hours before reaching a guilty verdict

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – A Warren County, Kentucky woman was convicted of maliciously damaging and destroying, and attempting to damage and destroy, by means of fire, the Dollar General Store, and the personal property, located in Hart County, Kentucky, by a federal jury in Bowling Green today following a week-long trial, announced David J. Hale, United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky. The jury deliberated for a little over two hours before reaching its unanimous verdict.  The defendant was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal Service. 

According to evidence presented during the trial that began Monday, Debra Fowler Kessinger, age 57, of Smiths Grove, Kentucky, set a fire on June 27, 2011, that destroyed, the Dollar General Store located at 1015 East Main Street in Horse Cave, Kentucky. Further, according to testimony presented during the trial, Kessinger, who was a manager of the store at the time of the fire, deliberately set the fire in the store’s break-room, to conceal information about inventory missing from the store and to conceal the theft of money from the store.  The day of the fire the store was to begin an audit process that would have exposed Kessinger. 

Following today’s verdict U.S. Attorney Hale commended the outstanding collaborative work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the Western Kentucky Arson Task Force.

Kessinger faces between 5 and up to 20 years in prison for destroying property by means of fire, a $250,000 fine and a 3 year period of supervised release. Kessinger is scheduled for sentencing before Chief District Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr. on March 12, 2015, in Bowling Green.

Further, the defendant was charged in a separate two-count superseding indictment this year with bankruptcy fraud.  According to the indictment, beginning in April 2008, and continuing through December 2009, Kessinger knowingly devised a scheme to defraud her creditors, the U.S. Trustee, and the Bankruptcy Court, by submitting a fraudulent Chapter 7 Bankruptcy petition, In that case, Fowler is charged with concealing and failing to disclose the purchase and possession of property, and the receipt and transfer of life insurance proceeds and retirement benefits of her late husband to the bank accounts of family members and others for her own benefit.

Kessinger faces forfeiture of property, no more than 10 years in prison for bankruptcy fraud, a fine of $500,000 and a 3 year period of supervised release.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Joshua Judd and Marisa Ford and was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Western Kentucky Arson Task Force composed of members from the Bowling Green Fire Department and the Kentucky State Police.

Louisville Field Division