Business owner convicted of blowing up his own building

VALLEY, Neb. (AP) — The owner of a Nebraska dry-cleaning business has pleaded no contest to charges that accused him of causing the explosion that destroyed his business.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that 54-year-old Michael McKernan of Valley entered the plea Thursday to second-degree arson and burning to defraud an insurer.

McKernan owned Wardrobe Spa. He was there on Oct. 7, 2018, when the building exploded, causing at least $350,000 in damage. McKernan was shaken but not seriously hurt.

McKernan told authorities that he was trimming bushes when the explosion occurred. But Deputy Sarpy County Attorney Ben Perlman said McKernan had intentionally drilled holes into gas lines that connected to a dryer and a furnace. The leaking gas ignited.

Authorities say McKernan also had “significantly increased” the insurance coverage days before the explosion. An investigation revealed McKernan’s business had lost more than $100,000 in the six months it was open.