Affidavits provide further details in arson cases, including extent of damage: more than $1 million
photo by: Harvey County Jail
A woman who has been charged with setting multiple fires at North Lawrence businesses — one of which reportedly caused more than $1 million in damage — just days earlier was responsible for a serious structure fire at a west Lawrence business, according to a newly released affidavit in the case.
On the morning of Nov. 13, according to the affidavit, which details probable cause for her arrest, Abie Schnacke, 19, of Lawrence, allegedly set fire to a plastic container filled with leaves and straw at the back of Lawrence Family Vision Clinic, 3111 W. Sixth St. The fire spread to the back of the building, necessitating removal of exterior siding, but was extinguished before it spread to the interior.
According to the affidavit, the fire was discovered by a woman who had arrived around 8 that Sunday morning to clean the office. The woman smelled smoke but believed at first that the odor was coming from the furnace. Eventually, she walked out and “noticed the exterior of the building was on fire,” according to the affidavit. The woman and another woman, who had subsequently arrived to help clean, attempted to put out the fire with water hoses and an extinguisher, but they were unsuccessful and called 911.
A fire investigator at the scene noticed melted plastic on the concrete sidewalk at the base of where the fire had damaged the building, and surveillance video from the property showed a woman setting the plastic container on fire and then walking into a nearby wooded area, according to the affidavit.
The suspect, later identified as Schnacke, was apprehended by Lawrence police at Sixth and Illinois streets. She was taken to LMH Health to have a cut on her hand treated, according to the affidavit. She waived her Miranda rights and denied to investigators that she had started the fire, the affidavit said.
Schnacke was charged with aggravated arson, a level 6 person felony that is punishable by 17 to 46 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000. She was released the next day on a $15,000 own-recognizance bond.
photo by: Contributed
Two days later, as the Journal-World reported, she allegedly set multiple fires — also captured on security cameras — at North Lawrence businesses. Those fires began at a liquor store and progressed southward to a printing business and a restaurant.
The fire at the printing business, Lunar Graphix, 725 N. Second St., was set in a recycling container near the rear door and spread into the business. The resulting damage to the business was in excess of $1 million, according to the arrest affidavit in that case.
Two more dumpster fires were set that night at 100 N. Riverfront Road, an area to the rear of the former Allstars nightclub, and at 401 N. Second St., the address of Johnny’s Tavern.
photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical
According to the affidavit, police located Schnacke behind Johnny’s, where the city-run camp for people experiencing homelessness is located. Schnacke, who officials said was not a resident or guest of the camp, reportedly ran into an outdoor toilet at the site to avoid police. An officer followed, forced the door open, found Schnacke and recovered “handheld portable flame devices,” the affidavit said.
In the North Lawrence case, she was charged with four counts of arson, each punishable by 11 to 34 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
Judge Sally Pokorny set Schnacke’s bond at $20,000 cash or surety. She remained in the Douglas County Jail as of Thursday afternoon.
Schnacke was arrested in January in Newton on suspicion of misdemeanor criminal damage and felony aggravated robbery, but she has not been charged in that case.