An attorney defending a Merced couple accused of torching their downtown business in 2016 spoke out Friday, saying his clients "maintain their innocence."
"There was evidence of a financial motive," District Attorney Larry Morse II said Thursday during a news conference announcing the arrests. "Sometimes in an arson, it isn't just for an insurance payout. It's also oftentimes to get out from under the ongoing bills associated with running the business, especially if the business isn't prospering or is failing."
But Darryl Young, a Merced-based attorney representing both defendants, said his clients "look forward to exonerating" themselves through the upcoming court process.
"As a successful small family business, they had nothing to gain and everything to lose from the downtown fire," Young said in a brief statement. "It is a travesty that they are being accused of destroying the very business they spent their lives to build."
Morse on Friday said the case his office "stands by" the case.
"The case was thoroughly investigated and carefully reviewed," Morse said in a brief telephone interview. "The presumption of innocence is always there for anyone accused of a crime. Obviously we'll present the evidence in court."
The couple purchased the business four months before the fire, according to a member of the family who owns the building.
The building and its contents were “deemed a total loss" with an estimated loss of about $1.8 million, according to Chief Michael Wilkinson of Merced City Fire Department. The rubble from the building remained downtown for several months.
Investigators believe the fire started on the mezzanine of the two-story building. Morse on Thursday said surveillance photos showed the couple at the shop before the fire but said he couldn't elaborate on the images.
Her and Moua were booked into the Merced County jail Thursday but have since posted bail, their attorney confirmed Friday.