A criminal investigation tied to the D’Andrea Banquets fire is ongoing, a city attorney said in a letter to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
The Crystal Lake Police Department, along with the Crystal Lake Fire Rescue Department, were called April 16 to D’Andrea Banquets and Conference Center to investigate a burglary and fire alarm, city attorney Robert T. Pickrell said in the letter.
The city of Crystal Lake was asking the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to uphold its rejection of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Northwest Herald seeking reports and other documents related to the fire.
The Crystal Lake police’s original denial from October said the request would “obstruct an ongoing criminal investigation by the agency that is the recipient of the request.”
“Disclosing the Withheld Records would have interfered with the investigation of the fire and, if it is determined that criminal activity occurred, would have interfered with the prosecution of any suspect,” Pickrell said in the letter.
Along with Crystal Lake police, the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were at the scene as well, according to the letter.
We’re just there to help determine cause and origin. When the agency shows up, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the cause had criminal intent. In many cases, it’s undetermined.— Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesperson Kimberly Nerheim
While officials can potentially narrow down the spot where the fire started, its cause is still to be determined, Crystal Lake Fire Rescue Department Chief Paul DeRaedt said Thursday.
With most of the building, and therefore evidence, destroyed in the fire, determining exact details is difficult, DeRaedt said. To fill in the gaps, evidence that could be gathered is being looked at and interviews are being conducted.
“It’s not an easy process,” DeRaedt said. “But there is enough information there that allows us to move forward. … We don’t have a determination as to what occurred.”
As more time goes on, it becomes less likely a true origin will be named. A year out, with not much in the way of new information, the pace of the case starts to slow down.
On Friday, Crystal Lake Deputy Police Chief Richard Neumann said the investigation was ongoing and declined to give additional information. McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally also declined to comment on Monday, saying the case was “still under investigation.”
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed last week it was no longer involved with the investigation, spokesperson Kimberly Nerheim said. The agency’s role was strictly providing resources at the time of the fire.
“We’re just there to help determine cause and origin,” she said. “When the agency shows up, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the cause had criminal intent. In many cases, it’s undetermined.”
The fire, which took place about 1:30 a.m. April 16, went on for nearly four hours before firefighters brought it under control a little after 5 a.m. No injuries occurred as the building was unoccupied at the time.
It’s not an easy process. But there is enough information there that allows us to move forward. … We don’t have a determination as to what occurred.— Crystal Lake Fire Chief Paul DeRaedt said on the investigation into the 2022 fire at D'Andrea Banquet Hall
However, the building sustained significant damage, with parts of the roof collapsing and the building overall becoming unstable.
D’Andreas owners were trying to sell the property at the time and announced in January 2022 the establishment’s planned Feb. 28, 2022, closure.
“During this unprecedented time it has become increasingly difficult to staff and provide the high level of service we demand of ourselves,” the company said in the post.
Following the fire, local officials lamented the loss of the structure, reminiscing on the events, weddings and memories many had with the site, which, according to the Crystal Lake Historical Society, was first used as a gas station and barbecue, Marie’s Place, beginning in 1934, and later became the Branded Steakhouse, before being bought by the Spentzos family.
One year later, the building has been demolished, with the lot now available for sale, according to listings posted by real estate agent Peter Cotsirilos with Keller Williams. Listed on multiple websites, the site totals nearly 4 acres for just under $3 million.
The only thing that’s constant in life is change. I think if we get something nice and new and fresh, it would be exciting and a benefit for the community.— Crystal Lake Mayor Haig Haleblian on what's next for the spot that formerly held the D'Andrea Banquet Hall
Cotsirilos declined to comment on the effort to sell the property. Multiple attempts to reach the property’s owners were not successful.
For Crystal Lake Mayor Haig Haleblian, the spot, located at 4419 Northwest Highway, is an “ideal location” with a lot of frontage near the intersection of routes 14 and 31. He would like to see a sit-down restaurant at the location, saying there is a need in town.
The city is ready now to move forward on a development if someone shows interest and it’s the right fit, Haleblian said.
“The only thing that’s constant in life is change,” Haleblian said. “I think if we get something nice and new and fresh, it would be exciting and a benefit for the community.”
Shaw Media reporter Amanda Marrazzo contributed to this story.