A domestic dispute between a 28-year-old Watertown woman and her ex-boyfriend allegedly led to the woman starting a fire in an apartment above Stacey's Bar which injured six people.
Trisha L. Krueger, 501 1/2 N. Fourth St., Apartment 2, made her initial appearance in Jefferson County Court Monday afternoon. Krueger has been charged with arson of a building and six counts of second degree recklessly endangering safety. If convicted she faces up to 100 years in prison and a fines up to $250,000.
Jefferson County Judge David Wambach set a $20,000 cash bond and ordered Krueger not to have any contact with the her ex-boyfriend, Jacob J. Verriden, of Watertown. Wambach also ordered Krueger to maintain absolute sobriety, not to posses any controlled substances and not to commit any acts or threats of violence.
According to the criminal complaint, Krueger told Watertown Police Department investigators she started fires in the master bedroom on the bed, in the children's bedroom on the bunk beds, on a blanket in the living room and on clothes in the closet of the apartment Krueger shared with the Verriden.
Verriden approached officers on-scene at the fire and told them he believed his girlfriend had started the fire because she had been threatening to kill and burn him.
Verriden showed officers a text message sent to his phone from Krueger at 2 a.m. Sunday which stated, "I don't need no water, because you will burn." Verriden told officers he and the defendant broke up a few weeks ago and she was due to move out of the apartment on Monday.
In a separate incident, Verriden reported to the Watertown Police Department Krueger allegedly put her hands around his neck while he was sleeping Friday. Krueger is facing two counts of disorderly conduct and one count of battery, all with domestic abuse assessments, relating to the Friday incident. In the criminal complaint, Verriden told investigators Krueger has been threatening to kill him a lot recently and he didn't know what she might do. He added Krueger was sending text messages and telling him in person that she was going to kill him.
While being interviewed by investigators Sunday, Krueger said she went out Saturday night to several bars in the city including H20 bar where she saw Verriden. Krueger said Verriden had her kicked out of the bar.
According to the complaint, Krueger said when she was kicked out of the bar she "snapped" and went to the apartment on North Fourth Street. She made the decision to start the fire on the car ride over because "she needed a release."
After starting the fires in the apartment using a Bic lighter, Krueger told investigators she left in her car and drove around briefly before returning to the building.
The fire and smoke spread quickly on the second floor of the building, trapping confused residents and other people in the building.
Luis A. Rivera, Brandon T. Hermance, Brandon Beutler and Elizabeth H. Keever were in an upstairs apartment when they smelled something burning. Keever opened the apartment door and saw a thick cloud of black smoke in the hallway, according to the complaint. Keever ran out into the hallway and left out the front door of the building.
Rivera and Hermance did not know the way out and could not see where Keever went after entering the smoky hallway. Rivera told investigators the building was becoming extremely hot and he thought it would be best to jump out of the window. He smashed open a window and jumped but cut his head, hand and leg on the broken glass. Hermance also jumped out of the window and broke his leg landing on the gravel parking lot. Beutler also reported injuring his legs jumping from the building.
Charles D. Heller and Catrina Darnell were also in a second floor apartment when the fire started, according to the complaint. Heller told investigators he opened the door to the hallway and could see flames and smoke in the hallway. Heller said he threw his mattress out of the apartment onto the ground in the parking lot to try and soften his and Darnell's landings. However, Heller missed the mattress and suffered a broken leg, and Darnell crashed through the cellar doors leading into the basement of the building.
The Watertown Fire Department also rescued a male out of the building who was transported to the hospital with smoke inhalation.
Krueger told investigators she didn't pay attention to whether or not people in the other apartments had noticed the fire because she was "so full of hate-filled revenge," according to the complaint.
The fire may have been deadly if it wasn't for the quick actions of a couple in the residence right behind the bar. Mayda Bakich said she was playing a game in her residence early Sunday morning when she heard glass being blown out of the windows in the apartment next door. Bakich said she looked outside and saw flames shooting out of the broken windows.
Bakich yelled for her husband, Ron Bakich, who ran over into the building bare chested and wearing only sandals to try and wake the residents up.
"He went into the building and up the stairs and banged on the walls to get the people inside to wake up. The whole porch was ablaze. The couple upstairs ... had no way to get outside, so they got their mattress and threw it down. We saw them jump, it was all pretty traumatic," Bakich said. "If it wasn't for my husband, and he doesn't want to call himself a hero, there would have been many fatalities."
A preliminary hearing for Krueger has been set for Monday at 9:30 a.m.