Accused Arsonist to Plead Out Wednesday
By Brandi Makuski
A Stevens Point man accused of setting fire to the Church St. Dollar General last year is scheduled to plead out on Wednesday.
Brian Kraus, 19, was charged with arson after police say he set fire to the store, located at 3260 Church Street, on May 7.
According to the criminal complaint, Kraus initially told police the fire started with a smoking microwave he’d used to heat his dinner, but the store’s surveillance cameras showed he never used the microwave. Instead, police saw footage of Kraus in the back office with a lighter three minutes before smoke appeared on camera.
Fire crews were called to the scene shortly after 6 PM that day and remained for several hours. No injuries were reported.
Kraus was arrested for arson on May 13 and had initially pleaded not guilty to the charge last June, but changed his plea in October to not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
Judge Thomas Eagon received the final report on Kraus’ mental exam in January.
While in custody at the Portage Co. Jail, Kraus was arrested again for allegedly attempting to help his cellmate, Larry Sanchez Sr., commit suicide.
Sanchez was in custody on a $1 million bond for the shooting death of his wife, as well as holding police at bay for over four hours during a June, 2015 armed standoff in Bancroft.
According to the criminal complaint, Kraus helped secure a noose made from braided ripped towels around Sanchez’s his neck. According to jail video surveillance, Sanchez then tied one end of the braided towel to the bars outside of his cell door and spent the next seven minutes leaning forward, attempting to hang himself.
Meanwhile, Kraus had crawled into his bunk and covered himself with a blanket, according to the complaint.
After being treated for minor injuries to his neck, Sanchez was returned to the jail.
The maximum penalty for arson of a building is 40 years in prison and $100,000 fine. For his role in the attempted assisted suicide, the maximum punishment is three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Another charge, violation of state institution laws, carries a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Kraus returns to court Wednesday, Feb. 3 and 8:30 AM.