1. Archive

Former fighter pilot will go to prison for arson

A decorated former fighter pilot has been sentenced to 23 months in prison for offering $10,000 and a dump truck to have someone burn down his ex-wife's home.

Retired Air Force Col. Abner M. Aust, 79, pleaded no contest Tuesday to arson. The state agreed to drop a charge of soliciting to commit first-degree murder.

Abner and Brenda Aust were divorced in 1987.

In March 1999, Aust met with a man, who turned out to be a confidential informer, and offered $10,000 and a 1967 dump truck to set fire to Brenda Aust's home and to kill her, according to an affidavit by Polk County sheriff's Detective K.W. Sumner.

Assistant State Attorney Kevin Abdoney said the murder solicitation charge was dropped because of evidence problems.

According to information in the court file, Aust is credited with destroying five enemy aircraft during World War II, becoming one of the last aces of the war when he shot down two Japanese Zero fighters over Tokyo in August 1945.

He commanded a fighter wing in Vietnam from May 1968 to February 1969, flying 300 combat missions, the information states.

It was not Aust's first encounter with the law, records show.

In 1985, 1987 and 1990, charges of felony grand theft or dealing in stolen property were dropped. In 1991, he pleaded no contest to two grand theft charges and was placed on three years' probation.