WAUPACA – The man suspected of starting a pair of fires in New London was charged Thursday with arson and attempted homicide. But there are still questions about the man’s alleged motive.
Two people were injured and six others were displaced by the early Tuesday morning fire in the apartments above the Copper Shot bar in downtown New London. Authorities say Jesse McLamarrah, 19, told them that fire was payback for an unpaid drug debt.
An hour later, a playground outside New London High School was set on fire.
Court documents say McLamarrah, who is from New London, told police he broke a library window and poured gasoline on the playground and lit it on fire. But McLamarrah told police he doesn’t know why.
Angry over drug debt
Court documents show McLamarrah told police he took the anxiety disorder drug Xanax Monday night and went to sleep. The documents go on to say, he woke up and became angry about a $100 marijuana debt.
The complaint says McLamarrah filled a vase with gasoline and threw it at the intended victim’s doorway above the Copper Shot bar.
“They are victims,” said Lt. Chris Gregory of the man and his girlfriend, who were injured when they jumped to safety from their second floor apartment. The two are now recovering.
The man McLamarrah allegedly targeted did not want to go on camera with FOX 11. He told FOX 11 he did have drug problems in his past, but that he didn’t owe McLamarrah any money for marijuana.
“The reason Mr. McLamarrah said was that there were drugs that were fronted to the victim, and there was not payment for the drugs, so he was going to take matters into his own hands,” said Gregory.
“Do you know if that’s true?” asked FOX 11’s Bill Miston.
“Well, I can’t say that for sure, because we have varying stories,” Gregory said. “What we can say is we’re going to have differing stories from the suspect and possibly the witnesses and victims.”
Police say more charges could be filed.
High cash bond set
At a bond hearing in Waupaca County court Thursday morning, a visibly upset McLamarrah appeared before Judge Phillip Kirk.
“I believe you have a copy of your complaint there young man,” said Kirk.
“Yes,” replied McLamarrah, who appeared without his attorney.
In addition to the attempted homicide charges, McLamarrah is also charged with burglary and several counts of arson, reckless endangerment.
“So, at any rate, you face a lot of problems,” said Kirk of the series of charges.
Waupaca County District Attorney James Fassbender argued McLamarrah needed a high cash bond to guarantee he appear for his adjourned initial appearance.
“I’d recommend something, perhaps in the amount of $200,000,” said Fassbender.
McLamarrah’s family declined to comment after the hearing. He’s due back in court next week.