‘I acted hastily’: Case of arson against Virginia Beach military family will head to trial; judge previously dismissed charges

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The case against a man accused of setting a Virginia Beach military family’s car on fire will head to trial after all.

The judge in the case had dismissed all charges in the case last week, saying at the time that the prosecution had mishandled the case against the suspect, Theodore Olsen, denying him due process. The defense claimed evidence was hidden that would’ve shown Olsen was innocent.

In a hearing revisiting the decision on Tuesday, the prosecution admitted on Tuesday that there was some mishandling in the case by a new detective, but it wasn’t done in malice. They went through point by point on how the case was handled.

After hearing from both the prosecution and defense, the judge said she was hasty in dismissing the charges and said the case would go to jury trial.

Olsen had previously been sentenced in April to 730 days with 470 days suspended for destruction of property charges in connection to the series of frightening incidents at the family’s home in 2019. The events culminated in their car being set on fire.

“Eventually we are hopeful that justice will prevail,” arson victim Michael Hanner told WAVY.

Theodore Purnell Olsen

The Hanner family is wondering how charges could be dismissed against the person who prosecutors say terrorized them for a year.

“It’s an emotional roller coaster that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced,” Hanner said.

Olsen declined to talk to WAVY Reporter Jason Marks on Tuesday.

“I don’t want to discuss this,” Olsen said as he walked out of court.

Olsen is accused of throwing rocks through the Hanners’ windows, dumping nails in their driveway, and torching their car in the middle of the night.

“I’m deeply disappointed, but we do look forward to our day in court,” said defense attorney Kenneth Jacobson.

Jacobson believes prosecutors withheld information that could clear his client. He pointed to a GPS tracker from Olsen’s car, which they have never had the chance to analyze.

Prosecutors told the judge that there were indeed missteps in this investigation and that there should have been more communication. They also say the lead detective was new to the process.

“The evidence does not point to Mr. Olsen,” Jacobson added. “It’s a product of an inept investigation by an investigator who apparently doesn’t do this very often.”

Last week, Judge A. Bonwill Shockley threw out the charges, but Tuesday she had a different tone. She told the court she was falling on her sword by acting so hastily and believes the case should now go to trial.

“They withheld information,” Jacobson said. “They played hide the ball. At every turn, we’ve had to find the evidence.”

“We are looking forward to justice being served,” Hanner added.

A trial date has not yet been set.

Get the free WAVY News App, available for download in the App Store and Google Play, to stay up to date with all your local news, weather and sports, live newscasts and other live events.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

WAVY Twitter Widget

***Don’t Miss Module Removal CSS***

WAVY Facebook