COLUMBIA — Mark Stevenson, the registered agent of the company that owns the strip mall where O'Reilly Auto Parts burned on April 1, 2012, pleaded guilty Monday to violating city ordinances requiring demolition and clean-up of the property within a specified period.
The strip mall, owned by 106 Business Loop 70 W, LLC, was seriously damaged by fire on April 1, 2012, causing an estimated $6 million in damage. The O'Reilly Auto Parts store was destroyed.
According to a court filing, between May 21, 2012 and September 6, 2012, the company 106 Business Loop 70 W failed to proceed with demolishing and cleaning up the property as required by the City of Columbia. The company was charged with seven counts of violating city ordinances.
Stevenson, 63, the authorized representative of the company, pleaded guilty to the seven counts in the 13th Circuit of Boone County, but said he made the decision based on the financial cost of this case.
"I don't like pleading guilty," Stevenson said. "But I want to do it because of the cost of it if it's going (directly) to trial."
Trial had been set for Nov 27. Instead, the company will pay a penalty totaling $3,500, Stevenson's attorney, Clark Jones, said.
After the hearing, Stevenson declined to comment on the case, saying only: "Some point in the future, I'd like to tell my side of the story."
According to previous Missourian reporting, other parts of the mall, which was about 50 years old, were also damaged in the fire. The businesses in the mall included O'Reilly Auto Parts, Sami's Beauty Supply, Adam's Barber Shop, Hong Kong Restaurant and Dollar General. The cause of the fire wasn't known.