Jury finds Bargersville man guilty of arson, three other felonies

A jury convicted a Bargersville man of numerous criminal charges Thursday, including strangling a woman and attempting to burn down her apartment.

Santiago Jesus Heiny, 41, was found guilty of attempted arson as a Level 4 felony, and charges of strangulation, domestic battery and intimidation, all Level 6 felonies, by a Johnson County Circuit Court jury on Thursday. The jury deliberated for only an hour before returning a verdict of guilty as charged on all counts, according to a Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office news release.

In the early morning hours of Oct. 16, 2020, Heiny and a woman, who shared an apartment in Bargersville, were arguing. The argument escalated into violence and Heiny punched and choked the woman, prosecutors say.

The woman fled from the apartment with a friend and Heiny made a phone call where he threatened to burn down the apartment complex unless the woman returned.

Heiny attempted to carry out the arson threat by pouring a large amount of vodka around the apartment and attempting to light it. Investigators later confirmed the apartment had been soaked with vodka, prosecutors say.

“When a person has intent to commit a crime and then takes an affirmative step towards accomplishing it, he is guilty of attempting to commit that crime,” said Lance Hamner, Johnson County Prosecutor. “An attempt to commit a crime is the same as if he actually accomplished it and carries the same penalty.”

In a recording provided by the woman, Heiny was heard saying, “I’m going to burn this (expletive) down,” court documents show.

If Heiny had set fire to the apartment, residents of 15 other units in the complex would have been put in danger in addition to the victims, according to court documents.

Heiny’s trial was made more challenging for prosecutors because the woman declined to participate. Prosecutors were able to get a copy of the threatening call, the news release says.

“One challenge of prosecuting crimes involving domestic violence is that victims sometimes do not wish to participate,” Hamner said. “We appreciate the hard work of law enforcement to secure sufficient evidence to proceed on this case.”

Heiny’s sentencing is set for April 13. The lead charge, attempted arson, is punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

Numerous resources are available for domestic violence victims. Columbus-based Turning Point Domestic Violence Services’ 24-hour Crisis Helpline can be reached at 1-800-221-6311. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached by calling 1-800-799-7233, or texting START to 88788. A live online chat is also available.