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Fire destroys bar days after owner testified in murder trial

June 14, 2021 GMT

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — A Yakima tavern was destroyed by a fire Saturday after its owner testified in a federal murder trial.

Yakima firefighters were called around 4:40 a.m. about the fire at the Brownstone Tavern near Harrah. Fire Chief Kevin Frazier said the fire was “well involved” when firefighters arrived.

Tavern owner Tim Castilleja testified last week in the trial of Jordan Stevens, who on Thursday was found guilty of murder in the 2019 death of Alillia “Lala” Minthorn of Toppenish, The Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

A witness said she believed Minthorn, 25, was killed for talking to FBI agents about something Stevens and another witness had done, according to a trial brief.

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Castilleja was arrested last week after he failed to show up to testify and brought to court. He said he was afraid to testify against Stevens.

Castilleja testified that Stevens and two women visited the tavern shortly after Minthorn’s killing. He told jurors one of the women was cleaning the SUV they drove up in and was visibly upset, while he saw Stevens carrying a rifle.

The cause of the tavern blaze hasn’t been determined and whether it was connected to the trial wasn’t clear.

The FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will lead the fire investigation.

Yakama Nation Tribal Police guarded the site Saturday, where fire continued to burn in the basement. Most of the building walls had collapsed and a vehicle with fire damage was next to the building.