The men allegedly set fire to the home of a registered sex offender
Two Door County men could face charges of arson as a party to a crime and first-degree reckless endangerment for allegedly setting fire to the home of a registered sex offender in the town of Gardner Saturday.
TJ R. Hunt, 24, and Justin S. Baker, 25, both of Gardner, appeared via video feed Monday in Door County Circuit Court, Branch 2. Hunt could also face additional charges of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, second offense, and obstructing an officer.
Johnson and members of his family attended the bond hearing. Johnson’s sister-in-law Andrea Johnson, in an interview with the Door County Advocate following the hearing, said Hunt’s and Baker’s actions seemed “premeditated.” Johnson, who was injured in a car accident in 1993, used a wheelchair provided by the courthouse to get into the courtroom. He is able to walk.
Hunt, who lives near the homes of Johnson and Johnson’s brother Dale Johnson, “became increasingly agitated as the evening went on” after learning about Johnson’s sex offender status, the district attorney told Judge Peter Diltz. Both Hunt and Baker were drinking throughout the night, he said.
In the presence of others, including Baker, Hunt “would wax and wane in his agitation over what an outrage” it was having a registered sex offender in neighborhood, he said.
Hunt and Baker went back and forth “seeming to bolster each other’s courage” before they went to Johnson’s house and poured gasoline on a corner of the trailer, he said. Both men later gave statements allegedly admitting to what happened, but neither knew who actually lit the fire.
“(Johnson) was awakened in the middle of the night, and when he got up he smelled smoke and could tell there was fire,” Pelrine said. Initially Johnson thought the fire was due to a faulty electric space heater.
Johnson went outside, saw the fire and went to his brother’s home across the road to call for help. Johnson also took his two cats with him.
“One corner of it was burning and the trailer was filled with smoke. Firefighters were able to put that out rather quickly,” Pelrine said. “Both firefighters and responding deputies immediately noticed a strong odor of gasoline.”
Authorities, who were called to the scene shortly after 3 a.m., also found a container of gasoline within 10 feet of the trailer. Both Johnson and Dale Johnson told authorities the canister did not belong to them, Pelrine said. The mobile home where Johnson is living is owned by his brother, but the property is owned by Sue and Gene VanDenPlas of New Franken and Glen and Jan Joski of Green Bay.
Pelrine went on to explain that after Hunt returned to his home and saw the emergency personnel show up Johnson’s trailer, he jumped on Baker, covered him with blankets and told him not to answer the door.
When authorities caught up with Hunt in his vehicle later that same morning, Pelrine said, officers smelled both gasoline and alcohol. When Hunt was given a breathalyzer test, it indicated a .11 blood alcohol content.
Diltz set Baker’s bond at $5,000 and Hunt’s bond at $15,000. Both men must stay away from Johnson, his family and their homes.
After the hearing a Door County Sheriff’s deputy escorted Johnson and his family to their vehicle because supporters for Hunt and Baker were also in attendance.
The trailer sustained “minimal damage,” said Brussels Union Gardner Fire Chief Curt Vandertie.
“There was some type of fire occurring toward the lower half of the house trailer, and we were able to extinguish the fire quickly with an extinguisher,” Vandertie said. He declined to say what may have started the fire, citing the sheriff’s department’s ongoing investigation.
The firefighters responded to the call at about 3:13 a.m. and cleared the scene by 5:54 a.m. The Southern Door Fire Department also assisted.
“Based on some suspicious observations from our first arriving units,” authorities were called to investigate, Vandertie said.
The Johnson family said they do not feel safe and have become very cautious since Saturday morning’s incident.
“It didn’t feel real. It was a like a movie. It made me sick to my stomach,” Jason Johnson said.
Johnson, who lives across the road from his brother, said he is uneasy about staying in the mobile home.
“I don’t feel right over there. It’s hard for me to even try to be comfortable ... It will take some time, I think. I haven’t yet slept over there. I don’t know what its going to be like to sleep over there – if I’m even going to be able to get some sleep,” he said.
Dale Johnson – who moved with his wife, Andrea, to the trailer court in February – is upset about the fire.
“Distraught ... it just feels unreal that somebody tried to kill my brother,” he said.
Andrea stressed that despite Jason’s sex offender status he is not a “predator” and the family is working to have him removed from the sex offender registry.
The family also expressed their thanks to the firefighters and sheriff’s department for how the fire and the investigation were handled.
“Even from when I went there (the sheriff’s department) to register and gave them my address ... they were very professional, very nice, considerate, understanding,” Jason Johnson said. ..Source.. by Samantha Hernandez
Man convicted of setting sex offfender’s house on fire
STURGEON BAY – A man who didn’t like that a sex offender moved into the neighborhood, so he set that man’s home on fire, was convicted Thursday.
T.J. Robert Hunt pleaded no contest to arson, according to online court records. Three other counts were dismissed.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 14 in Door County Circuit Court.
Hunt and Justin Baker set fire to the residence of Jason Johnson. Johnson was convicted in Michigan in 2009 of 2nd Degree Criminal Sexual Assault, according to the state registry. Authorities said the two cited Johnson’s sex offender status as the reason for the fire.
Baker returns to court April 29 for a plea hearing. ..Source.. by Fox11 News
Justin Baker gets jail time, probation for arson to sex offender's home
The Door County man accused of setting fire to his neighbor's home because he was a registered sex offender has been convicted.
On Tuesday, Justin Baker pled no contest to recklessly endangering safety, while a count of arson was dropped. Baker was sentenced to 9 months in jail, placed on probation for three years, fined $500 and ordered to perform 75 hours of community service.
In the same case, T.J. Robert Hunt pled no contest to a count of arson. Hunt will learn his fate on July 14.
Both men set fire to the home of Jason Johnson, who was convicted in Michigan in 2009 of 2nd degree Criminal Sexual Assault. ..Source.. by Jeff Flynt