DNA evidence helps solve 2019 arson case


WATERVLIET, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Watervliet Police say DNA evidence has helped to solve a one-and-a-half-year-old arson case. It was just after midnight on January 13, 2019 when Watervliet first responders were called to a structure fire at 313 19th Street.

They were met with flames and smoke on the back porch where you can still see evidence of what happened. The first floor is a storefront, but upstairs there were several occupied apartments.

“The fact that it happened at midnight there is a high potential that the residents were sleeping and it adds a little more danger,” said Acting Police Chief Brian Strock.

Strock says no one was injured, but investigators determined that the fire was intentionally set.

“Detectives on scene located evidence that we believed was used to help set this fire. That evidence was sent to the crime lab. We received a hit on DNA.”

Strock says that DNA was a match to Shawn R. Yarter, 27.

“So, Mr. Yarter does have a criminal history he was mandated to submit to providing his DNA. We utilized his DNA that was submitted to the databank and tied it to this crime. So, the evidence that we submitted to the crime lab and the work that the scientist did there really was instrumental in leading towards an arrest here.”

The acting chief says other evidence was also helpful in placing Yarter in the area at the time of the fire, but he would not go into detail as to what that evidence might be.

Watervliet police say Yarter was located in Ballston Spa on Wednesday and arrested. He faces charges of Arson, Criminal Mischief and Reckless Endangerment.

Yarter was remanded to The Albany County Correctional Facility on $50,000 cash bail.

As for a motive, the acting chief says Yarter did not appear to have any connection to the building and the suspect did not offer any information to investigators.

Watervliet Police say they submitted their evidence back in February of 2019 and got the news on the DNA in July.

We asked the New York State Police why it would take one and a half years to get the results.

Spokesperson Beau Duffy told NEWS10 he is working on tracking down an exact timeline, but that July is when their lab got a positive hit.

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