Thursday afternoon, the Merrill Police Department announced a suspect is now in custody as part of an ongoing investigation into recent arson and vehicle entry incidents, which are believed to be related.
According to a media release from the department;
On Thursday, October 22, 2015 at about 3:00 a.m., the Merrill Police and Fire
Departments responded to a report of a residential fire at 1900 E. 1st St. in the City of Merrill.
This fire resulted in a total loss of the property for the owners. Most important, the seven
occupants were fortunate to escape with their lives. Given the close proximity of this scene to
other crimes, namely vehicle entries, as well as the unknown nature of the fire, assistance was
requested from the Wisconsin Department of Justice – Division of Criminal Investigation (State
Fire Marshal’s Office) and the Wisconsin State Patrol. All contributing agencies worked to
process the scene in order to determine a cause and origin of the fire.
At the time of this fire, the Merrill Police Department was already engaged in several
investigations of vehicle entries/thefts from vehicles in the general area. Additionally,
investigators found that previous strings of vehicle entries/thefts from vehicles coincided with
two vehicle arsons. Police officers were tasked with extra focus in the areas of these crimes.
Following the residential fire on Oct. 22, additional officers were deployed to conduct
surveillance and to monitor the historic path of these crimes.
On the morning of Tuesday, October 27, 2015, patrol officers observed a suspect in the
area of these crimes. The suspect was stopped and initially arrested for an unrelated offense.
The suspect was interviewed at the Police Department and confessed to elements of all three
arsons. The suspect will remain in custody and is charged with an unrelated offense. Any
charges related to the arsons, burglaries and thefts are pending further processing of evidence
At this time, we are still investigating many elements of this case and a complete report
has not been provided to the Lincoln County DA. No further information is available for public
release at this time, as the piecemeal release of details could jeopardize the prosecution of
these offenses. We thank you for your cooperation in helping to protect the integrity of this
According to Captain Corey Bennett, the recent fire at 1900 E. First street is still under investigation and no official ruling has been made on the cause of the blaze.