Public Safety

Cedar Rapids man to claim insanity in fatal fire at Hawthorne Hills Apartments

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man charged in a fatal fire at Hawthorne Hills Apartments will claim insanity as a defense at his trial, which is set for Sept. 23 in Linn County District Court.

Dallas Tullis, 24, who is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree arson, assault on a peace officer and assault causing bodily injury, filed his notice of defense in May, following a psychological evaluation conducted in jail by a psychologist who will testify for the defense.

The results of the defense’s evaluation are not in public records.

6th Judicial District Judge Mitchell Turner on Wednesday approved the prosecution’s application to have Tullis evaluated by an independent psychologist at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville. The date of the examination is yet to be determined.

According to a criminal complaint, Steven Craig Balvin died from injuries in a fire that was intentionally set Feb. 28.

An investigation determined the fire started inside Tullis’ apartment at 2255 C St. SW, according to the complaint.

Investigators interviewed a number of witnesses who said Tullis was involved in several conflicts with other tenants and management in the weeks preceding the fire.

Balvin, two other tenants and a firefighter were hospitalized for injuries, according to officials. Several others also were injured.

The apartment complex sustained significant fire, heat and smoke damage, which displaced all the residents, police said at the time.

Tullis also is accused of assaulting a Cedar Rapids police officer and a hospital security guard, according to the complaint.

Tullis, who was injured in the fire, assaulted Officer Scott Syverson and Wade Shelton, a Mercy Medical Center security guard, while Tullis was being treated at the hospital.

Tullis has pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains in jail under a $2 million bail pending trial.

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