Preliminary hearing set for suspects in New Haven arson

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE  —  A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for two suspects charged in connection with an arson in the Town of New Haven in August of 2014.

Jonathan Hopkins, 34, and Jamie Schewe, 33, made an initial appearance in Dunn County Circuit Court June 26 before Judge Rod Smeltzer on one felony count each of arson of a building with intent to defraud as a party to a crime.

Bail was set for Hopkins and Schewe on June 6 with a $1,000 signature bond for each of them.

Judge Smeltzer issued arrest warrants for Hopkins and Schewe on May 25.

According to the criminal complaint, on August 28, 2014, the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department received a request for a fire investigator to respond to E625 1270th Avenue in the Town of New Haven.

The fire investigator, Deputy Matt Feeney, met with the incident commander for the Boyceville fire department. The structure was a double-wide stick built structure used as a single-family rental with a detached garage.

The incident commander was concerned about the floor joist being burned completely through near the front entrance and pointed out the renters of the structure, who were identified as Jamie M. Schewe and Jonathan G. Hopkins.

Schewe told Deputy Feeney she and Hopkins lived at the residence, had rented it for the past four years, and the fire had started because of a heat lamp near an aquarium that sat beneath the counter between the kitchen and the living room. The aquarium contained two bearded dragon lizards, according to the complaint.

Schewe told investigators she and Hopkins had just purchased renters insurance, were in the process of moving closer to Menomonie, and had put some of their belongings in the garage, the complaint states.

A special agent from the Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation Fire Marshal’s office was contacted to investigate the scene.

The special agent determined the heat lamp for the aquarium was ruled out as a cause for the fire, and the origin of the fire appeared to have been near the front door, according to the complaint.

The friend with whom Schewe and Hopkins said they had stayed the night before the fire provided a written statement to the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department September 2, 2014, saying Hopkins and Schewe had came to her residence and told her if anyone asked where they had been on the night of August 27, she should say they were on her living room floor, even if the police asked about their whereabouts, according to the complaint.

Schewe and Hopkins said the property owner had tried to set the building on fire August 27, 2014, but when they returned home, they had found the fire smoldering in some paper towels behind the aquarium, the complaint states.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled at 10 a.m. August 24 in Dunn County Circuit Court. 

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