JUNEAU — A 41-year-old Lowell man faces felony arson charges for allegedly starting a basement on fire in the town of Herman two years ago.
Benjamin Mueller made his initial appearance in court on the charges Monday. He could face up to 40 years in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted. He appeared before Dodge County Court Commissioner Steven Seim and was placed on a $5,000 signature bond, on the conditions he not have any direct or indirect contact or communication with the owner of the building.
According to the criminal complaint, emergency responders came to the house that Mueller had been sharing with his wife on April 12, 2017, at 8:15 p.m. for a basement fire. Mueller was in the basement trying to get the fire out, and his wife could hear him coughing inside.
Mueller left the basement a few minutes later. According to the criminal complaint, the wife told police that the day before she had called Mueller out on a lie and that she told him that their marriage was over.
After speaking to the wife and other family members, police believed Mueller might have had a role in starting the fire. Mueller was the only one in the home when the fire started. The Iron Ridge Fire Chief said that the fire was contained to the basement but there were signs of significant smoke damage to the upper floors.
A deputy state fire marshal investigated the fire and determined that the fire originated in at least two areas within the basement and was the result of an open flame and gasoline.
Mueller’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 19.