The man suspected of burning down The Barn Restaurant southeast of Baraboo was formally charged Monday in Sauk County Circuit Court.
Devin J. Schroeder, 24, of Stoughton, was charged with five felonies and two misdemeanors for alleged theft, criminal damage, burglary and arson of the restaurant at S5566 County Highway DL in December 2018. Schroeder faces up to 104 years in prison and fines up to $230,000 if convicted of all charges.
According to the criminal complaint, Schroeder allegedly told authorities after he was arrested that he set the building on fire because “he likes fire, and because of a recent break-up which upset him.”
The cause of the structural fire that emergency personnel responded to on Dec. 23, 2018, was a cigarette lighter, according to the complaint. Schroeder allegedly told Sauk County police he set a scarecrow on fire in the attic of the building after breaking in a second time. He also set fire to some receipts and tossed them in a bucket with other papers.
Schroeder’s arrest came after more than a year of investigation. According to the complaint, Detective Joseph Kellogg of the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office initially responded to a call about possible theft on Dec. 22, 2018. Authorities found that between midnight and 7 a.m. that day, someone had broken a plate-glass window at the front of the business with a jug and entered the building.
It was determined that in the initial theft a laptop, various liquor bottles, a barrel partially filled with candy and about $600 was stolen from the business. There were pry marks on the register and a container of chocolate ice cream was sitting on the counter. According to the complaint, the men’s bathroom had been vandalized and it looked as if the person who had broken in likely tried to set a roll of paper towels on fire in a garbage can. The stovetop and gas oven were also left on to the highest setting.
Around 6 a.m. the next day, officials responded to reports of a fire at the business. They found that another window had been smashed in that was not damaged due to firefighters attempting to put out the blaze.
In January 2019, Kellogg obtained a Google Reverse Location History search warrant and arrested someone who he later interviewed about the arson and burglary. In an interview in March 2019, the man admitted to driving to a home where his friends, Kiefer Woods and Dalton Voights, lived about 200 yards north of the restaurant. The man said he had also spoken to a man who drunkenly talked about robbing the business during a conversation about a week after the fire.
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Three days later, authorities spoke to Woods at the Sauk County Jail. Woods told them he and Voights lived with Schroeder during the fire and he remembered the conversation the man had referred to, even calling later to tell police that Schroeder had given him a laptop days after the fire. Detectives found it was still at the residence. Amber Giddings, the owner of the Barn Restaurant, verified it belonged to the business.
Authorities also spoke to Schroeder’s other former roommate, Voights, who told them Schroeder admitted to stealing the laptop. Voights said Schroeder was also awake while the firefighters were working on the building, making food. Authorities were told the barrel of stolen candy was given to a woman, who they tracked down and spoke to as well. She said she spoke to Schroeder, a friend of a friend, and that he said “he had not got what he wanted, so he burned it down.” The woman had later identified Schroeder through Facebook friends.
At the end of March, detectives obtained a warrant to take Schroeder’s DNA through a swab. They visited him in Stoughton, where he denied knowing anything about the restaurant or the fire, but submitted to a swab after being served with the warrant.
On March 28, Voights admitted that Schroeder had woken him and Woods up. They walked into the living room of the residence to find “several piles” of money, Voights allegedly told authorities. Schroeder told them he had stolen it from the restaurant.
According to the complaint, Voights told detectives that they spent the money on things like gas and back rent. Schroeder bought the group groceries and also purchased a variety of alcoholic beverages, specifically Four Loko, Hamm’s beer and Fireball whiskey.
Test results from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Crime Laboratory were received by Kellogg Jan. 29. The report showed that Schroeder’s DNA was found on the border of the laptop screen, a handle of the candy barrel lid and from the doorknob near the restaurant bathroom.
After being arrested Feb. 5, Schroeder allegedly told police that he lit the items and once he saw flames reaching up to 6 feet near the stairs, he ran out of the building through the front door and watched as flames and smoke came out of the restaurant. He allegedly went back to his residence without calling for an emergency response.
Schroeder said he initially lied when being interviewed by police because he was afraid. Voights said he knew Schroeder had also stolen from Habitat for Humanity ReStore twice. He allegedly told authorities the pair had split the money to pay for rent.
He was found guilty in June 2015 of misdemeanors of criminal trespassing and theft up to $2,500. Schroeder was sentenced to two years of probation by the Pierce County Circuit Court.
Schroeder is scheduled to make an initial appearance March 11 in Sauk County Circuit Court.
Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.
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