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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A Dunn County judge has ordered that the trials be consolidated for two suspects accused of setting a double-wide trailer house on fire in the Town of New Haven.
Judge Rod Smeltzer ordered the trials to be consolidated during a hearing in Dunn County Circuit Court December 3 regarding charges filed against Jonathan G. Hopkins, 35, and Jamie M. Schewe, 34.
Hopkins and Schewe are each charged with one Class C felony count of arson of a building with intent to defraud as a party to a crime.
Following the preliminary hearing in the Hopkins and Schewe case on August 24, Judge Smeltzer found probable cause and scheduled an arraignment hearing for both defendants on September 20.
Both defendants pleaded not guilty at the September 20 arraignment hearing.
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 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 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 also 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.
Deputy Feeney observed the floor joist by the front door had burned from the top down and was burned completely through while other joists, although damaged, had not been burned through. Where the aquarium was reported to have been located, there was less damage to the joists than by the front door.
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.
A three-day jury trial has been scheduled for Hopkins and Schewe in April.
If convicted of the arson of a building with intent to defraud, the penalty could be a fine of up to $100,000 and/or 40 years in prison.
Bail was set with a $1,000 signature for both defendants in June of 2018.