Updated: Oelwein man facing arson charge

An Oelwein man is facing an arson charge over a fire at a house owned by his siblings where he resided.

Chris Edward Westendorf, 57, is charged with second-degree arson, a Class C felony, in Fayette County District Court.


According to the criminal complaint filed on Tuesday, Feb. 14, Westendorf told an officer at the scene of the fire — 420 4 1/2 St. SW — on Sunday, Feb. 12, that he started it. The officer was responding to a fire call at about 7:30 p.m.

“When I arrived, I made contact with who I recognized to be Chris Westendorf,” the officer reported in the complaint. “Chris made statements to me almost right away that he started the fire. Several other witnesses provided statements that said Chris either made threats to them about burning the house down, or that he did intentionally burn it down. The property is owned by his sister Kristy Heidt and brother Tim Westendorf.”

The Oelwein Police Department and the Oelwein Fire Department were assisted by the Iowa State Fire Marshall’s Office.

An arrest warrant on the arson charge was issued Wednesday, Feb. 15, and served on Westendorf in the Fayette County Jail on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Westendorf was already in the jail because he had been arrested on Sunday on an outstanding warrant for probation violation. Court documents show Westendorf was placed on one year of supervised probation after pleading guilty in June 2022 to animal abuse, an aggravated misdemeanor. Westendorf, killed his sister’s pet bunny by putting it in a dryer and turning it on. He told a responding officer that he did it not out of ill intent but said, “It is mechanical and it needed to be tested.”