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opening arguments in arson trial

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 16:43 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

Opening arguments were given Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of burning down his family's home in Westville.

Kevin Schmidt, 41, is charged with three Class B felony counts of arson.

The fire in June of 2010 engulfed a ranch style house at 104 E. Jefferson St. where Schmidt lived with his wife and three children.

LaPorte County deputy prosecutor Julianne Havens said Schmidt and his wife during a night of heavy drinking got into a heated argument in the bedroom when she stopped having sex.

She left and went to her brother's house nearby.

Her brother showed up with two of his friends and left with the children, she

said.

Havens said everyone but Schmidt was gone when a neighbor saw flames starting to build and Schmidt opening his garage door then leaving on a motorcycle.

She said the fire started in two separate locations where gasoline was detected.

Defense attorney Larry Rogers of Valparaiso said his client doesn't know how the fire started.

He was punched in the face by his brother in-law and alerted to the fire by his barking dog.

Rogers also said Schmidt with his union carpentry skills made a lot improvements to the residence and without insurance lost everything including an expensive guitar he purchased for one of his children.

''They had nothing to gain from an arson,'' he said.

Havens, though, said emotions can get the best of people.

''Never underestimate spite as a motivator,'' she said.

His wife, Robin, testified they later divorced then remarried.

They presently live in Wanatah and now have five children.

Each count carries a potential maximum 20-year sentence.

One reason the case didn't go to trial sooner is charges being dismissed after the couple's landford moved and couldn't be located.

The charges were refiled in 2014 when she was found and gave a statement tying up some of the loose ends in the case, authorities said.
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