Two face trial on tower arson fire charges

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

The two people charged in the alleged arson fire that destroyed the historic Huson water tower last have been bound over for trial in Sheboygan County Circuit Court Branch 1.

Andrew P. Manderle, 35, and Kylie L. Unterweger, 20, both of Plymouth, are charged with two felony counts of arson of a building without owner’s consent for the fire at the Huson water tower and another that destroyed a vacant warehouse on East Clifford Street within a three-day span last June.

Unterweger is scheduled for trial in Sheboygan County Circuit Court Branch 1 Wednesday, May 11, at 8:30 a.m. Manderle is set for a status conference in Branch 1 Monday, April 4 at 8:30 a.m.

Both made their initial appearances Feb. 19, when Manderle pleaded not guilty to both counts and Unterweger had her preliminary hearing last Friday.

Unterweger has a pre-trial conference with the district attorney March 22 and a plea hearing Branch 1 Monday, April 8 at 8:30 a.m. prior to her scheduled jury trial.

The two were charged in late January.

According to the criminal complaint, both were allegedly involved in setting a fire Friday, June 19, that heavily damaged a vacant former cheese warehouse at 423 E. Mill St.

They are also accused of setting the fire that destroyed the landmark water tower on Collins Street in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 21.

According to the criminal complaint, Plymouth police officers investigating the scene at the Huson water tower after the fire was extinguished discovered a book of matches with one match missing on a walking path about 20 yards from the tower as well as a Bic lighter nearby.

Special Agent Brian Liethen of the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation assisted Plymouth Police in the subsequent investigation.

Investigators were contacted Aug. 5 by a woman who wanted to deny what she said were “rumors around town” that she had started the fire.

The woman told investigators she believed Manderle had set the fires. When asked why she believed that, she said Manderle had told her.

When she told Manderle people said she had set the fire, according to the complaint, “Manderle ‘started laughing’ and physically pointed to himself.”

The woman also told investigators she believed Unterweger had been involved as well. Initially, she denied being involved, saying she had learned about the fires through Facebook and newspaper accounts, but later admitted to setting both fires but denied that Manderle was involved.

Unterweger said she had broken a window and entered the warehouse looking for “tools and stuff” she could steal and sell.

She speculated that the fire had started from cigarette butts she left behind.

As for the water tower fire less than 48 hours later, she said she had broken a glass window in the rear of the tower.

“She said she was ‘chilling’ in the water tower for a little while and for ‘sh**s and giggles’ started a little fire on the cement pad in back of the tower,” the complaint states.

She also told investigators she made a little fire on the cement pad in back of the tower with ‘miscellaneous garbage’ she had with her, starting the fire with her lighter and a book of matches she had with her.

Later in August, Unterweger met with investigators again and changed her story.

She said she and Manderle had set several fires in plastic and foam inside the Clifford Street warehouse June 19, which then set wooden boards leaning against a wall on fire.

Unterweger said Manderle set the fire at the tower two days later while she was waiting for him along the river.

“She said that Manderle was near the water tower alone for a couple of minutes when she heard a loud boom,” the complaint says Unterweger related. “Manderle then ran down the hill towards her. As the two were walking away from the scene, Manderle told Unterweger that he thought he burned down the water tower.”

When investigators asked Unterweger why the two of them had burned down the tower, the complaint says, “Unterweger said that they were being ‘dumb and stupid.’”

When investigators then interviewed Manderle at the Sheboygan County Detention Center, where he was being held on other charges, Manderle volunteered that Unterweger “didn’t really have anything to do with it,” when asked about the fires.

Manderle declined to provide any more information, stating that he preferred prosecution in federal court.

The counts against Manderle and Unterweger are all class C felonies. Each carries a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine or up to 40 years in prison, or both.


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