A Council Bluffs neighborhood had one of the best ways to watch out for one neighbor in particular. The neighbor had a hidden camera trained on a home that became the scene of a fatal arson case. Channel 6 News learned the camera recorded all of it.
There were a number of accusations facing Mark Vanderwoude, 43, before he set the home on Norwood Drive on fire on February 25. He died in the home.
He was facing domestic violence and stalking charges. Investigators say he was being watched for putting sugar in the gas tank of his estranged wife's car, stuffing towels in exhaust vents and opening gas valves.
Experts expected him to do something else at the home where he was no longer allowed to live. His estranged wife and three children lived there.
Council Bluffs investigators says the camera showed Vanderwoude arriving at the home at 3:06 p.m. as he backed his work truck next to the garage. He disappears from camera view for about one-minute before the garage door opens from the inside. It's believed he broke into the home from the back.
For the next minute he's working between the back of his van and the garage door. Investigators believe he's carrying flammable material inside. Five minutes after arriving here -- the camera shows a flash -- and then the garage door bows out from what seems like an explosion.
From the time he arrived at the home to when windows started to break because of the intense flames , seven minutes had past.
Usually experts need to estimate the time frame and actions of an arsonist -- a hidden camera change all that.
One thing the camera didn't show is motivation.
A 911 call came in at 3:15 p.m. yesterday in a neighborhood northeast of the Mall of the Bluffs on Norwood Drive. Vanderwoude's estranged wife, Lori, and their three elementary age children live in the house, but they weren't home during the fire.
Fact Finders has been going through court documents. Since September, the 43-year-old Vanderwoude has been charged with violating a protection order, domestic abuse/2nd offense and sending harassing text messages. He was to go to trial next month.
Investigators are examining several scenarios - one being that Vanderwoude set the fire himself.
Even though he no longer lived in the home, neighbors say his work truck was parked in front of the garage before the fire and was still there afterwards.
"I looked out - 'Oh my god. Oh my god. There's a fire across the street. The house is on fire.'" said Betty Doyle who lives across the street.
It's rare for flames to be shooting out every window a couple minutes after the 911 call, say investigators. That's why Council Bluffs Fire Chief Alan Byers calls it suspicious. "Neighbors reported seeing a male go in the house - but not come out."
The fire burned so hot and so fast - little is left of the floors inside. It's a total loss.
The siding burned on the next door neighbor's home.
"According to the fire department, we were a minute or two from really catching fire," said Chuck Dusing, whose wife safely escaped. She was in the basement wearing headphones.
Chuck: "She was exercising on the treadmill."
Reporter: "How did she find out?"
Chuck: "Someone called her and told her the house next door was on fire."
Other neighbors say they had been asked to watch the house because of domestic problems.
Now, it's up to investigators to figure out what, if anything, that had to do with the burned home.
Mark Vanderwoude's body was found in an upstairs bathroom.
An autopsy is scheduled for sometime Tuesday.