Mike Weland, Kootenai Valley News, Dec. 21
After a week-long trial, a jury failed to reach a verdict in an arson trial against Robert Hayden, 64, who stands accused of assisting Scott Zamitalo in an attempt to stage what they hoped would appear a hate crime.
Zamatilo and his wife, a mixed-race couple, arrived home from a trip to Coeur d’Alene in October, 2003, and reported to the sheriff’s office that their home was on fire. A rude cross had been erected in the yard, and racial epithets painted on a barn.
Investigators looking into the incident quickly determined that the fire was suspicious, and it didn’t take long for their suspicions to turn onto Zamitalo, who soon confessed that he’d conspired to burn the house, hoping that insurance he’d collect would pay for a move back to Wisconsin. He implicated Hayden in the conspiracy, and investigators learned that a heater that had been tampered with and was the cause of the fire had allegedly been purchased by Hayden at the Ponderay Wal-Mart shortly before the fire.