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Tuesday September 18, 2018

arson trial ends in hung jury

Monday, February 19, 2018 15:06 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

A jury was unable to reach a verdict against a man accused of burning down his family's home in Westville.

Several hours of deliberation ended Friday night in LaPorte Circuit Court with a hung jury on two Class B felony arson counts against 41-year old Kevin Schmidt.

He was acquitted on the remaining arson count.

Prosecutors tried placing Schmidt inside the home at 104 E. Jefferson St. when the fire with gasoline was set in 2010 and leaving the residence on a motorcycle as flames started engulfing the ranch style residence.

According to the testimony, Schmidt and his wife after drinking were having sex when Schmidt became angry when she stopped.

Fueling the exchange was her anger over Schmidt's recent affair.

The woman left and went to her brother's home.

At her request, her brother went to the house with two of his friends to pick up her children.

The picture drawn by the defense, though, was Schmidt getting beat up by the men then blacking out and waking up to the house burning.

Defense attorney Larry Rogers said there was no proof who ignited the fuel and police did not investigate the assault claims or possibility someone else set the blaze.

He said it would be unfair to convict his client just because he was in the house.
''He thought that fire was set by one of those guys and they were trying to

kill him,'' Rogers said.

LaPorte County deputy prosecutor Julianne Havens said the men had already left with the couple's three children before movement inside the house was spotted by a neighbor just before Schmidt left on the motorcycle.

Rogers said his client had no motive after making a lot of improvements to the house and having no insurance.

Havens, though, said Schmidt except for complaining of discomfort to his face had no other signs of getting beaten up.

She said emotions from his wife and children leaving after a heated argument got the best of him.

''It was an arson for spite,'' she said.
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