Police: Arson suspect was distraught over pet
BARRE — Police say a naked, intoxicated Montpelier man set his Elm Street home on fire because his cat had died.
Charles H. Stawicki, 50, pleaded not guilty in Washington County criminal court Wednesday to one count of felony first-degree arson. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $2,000 fine.
According to the police affidavit, police received a 911 call shortly before noon Tuesday from someone saying a man was outside yelling that he wanted to die and the house was smoking. Police said they found Stawicki naked, sitting on the ground in front of his home, and heavy smoke was pouring out of it. Stawicki was taken into custody and transported to the Montpelier police station.
Fire crews from several communities, including Montpelier, Barre and Worcester, battled the fire. The fire investigation unit from the Vermont State Police was also called in to determine the cause of the fire.
State police say no one was injured in the blaze. Damage to the home was estimated to be around $50,000.
While he was being transported to the police station, police say, Stawicki was crying, talking about how he started the fire and saying he wanted to die. Police say Stawicki was distraught over the recent death of his cat, Bear.
At the station, police say, Stawicki told them Bear had died last week and he had been drinking alcohol in an attempt to kill himself. He told police, “I just can’t take it anymore.”
Stawicki told police he had consumed a liter and a half of vodka starting the night before. He was given an alcohol breath test, and police say he had a blood alcohol content of 0.196 percent.
When asked about the fire, Stawicki told police he turned on an electric hot plate and put it between a wall and the refrigerator. He then went to the front porch and waited for the fire to start, police say he told them. Twenty minutes later, he said, he began to smell smoke.
Stawicki told police he wanted the fire to reach the propane tank on the side of the house and “waited for the house to explode,” according to the police affidavit. He also said he didn’t remember how he ended up next to the street when police first arrived.
Stawicki rents the home from Winston Weston Jr. Police said Weston told them Stawicki had been living there for three years. Weston said the propane tank on the side of the house had been disconnected for around 10 years.
In court Wednesday, Stawicki was ordered held on $10,000 bail. He has a conviction of simple assault in 2002.
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