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Brown County man charged with 8 counts of arson

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 1:46 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A 24-year-old man from Hobart is accused of setting fires at businesses and farms over the past three years. James Ambrosius is charged with 8 counts of arson and other crimes in Brown County.

Ambrosius was questioned shortly after a fire last week where he worked, Dedicated Repair Inc. on Elm View Rd. in Ledgeview. According to the criminal complaint, he repeatedly denied being responsible for that fire -- and others in the area -- and eventually admitted to eight fires, including:

  • July 25, 2021 - Dedicated Repair Inc
  • July 20, 2021 - Farm on S. Overland Rd.
  • March 19, 2021 - Truck fire at Dedicated Repair Inc.
  • November 3, 2020 - Farm on Fernando Dr.
  • August 7, 2018 - Farm on Orlando Dr.
  • May 23, 2018 - Restaurant near Dedicated Repair Inc.

In the complaint, investigators say Ambrosius was nervous when they talked to him about the Dedicated Repair fire. He said he was in the parking lot, and eventually admitted he was using cocaine there, but he denied having anything to do with the fire.

Investigators reviewed video from cameras at the business, a nearby gas station and a truck parked at the truck stop. The video showed a person wearing a mask and gloves moving behind a counter and standing at the cash register in the repair shop. A minute later, there are flickering lights from a fire.

Ambrosius was questioned again. He admitted taking money from the register but again denied starting the fire. Under more questioning, he said, “I didn’t do it intentionally,” and then, “I didn’t do it at all.” Eventually, he told them he borrowed money for cocaine and he needed money to pay the drug debt and the fire was an accident -- but his stories would change again.

He told investigators the fire was an accident when he plugged in a battery pack, causing an electrical outlet to spark. He eventually described using a propane torch and a box of latex gloves to set a fire to cover up the burglary.

Ambrosius was also questioned about a fire involving a truck at Dedicated Repair four months earlier. After denying he started that fire, he said the truck was covered in hair from the owner’s dog and it was “gross.” He lit a pile of dog hair on fire in a vent coming off the truck’s auxiliary power unit, though it took some effort to keep the fire going.

Investigators say he also denied causing a fire at a nearby restaurant, then gave specific details about how he started it.

He admitted setting fire to a barn twice, although he initially said he wasn’t at the barn the first time it caught fire. He knew cattle died in one of the fires. He said he set the fire last summer by throwing a cigarette butt into a straw pile. He said he set the fire because he didn’t like the kids there.

Then he admitted to another barn fire on Overland Road. He said he put paper towels in the hay in the hay loft and set them on fire because the owner owed him money.

Investigators say without prompting he admitted to a barn fire on Triangle Drive. He said during bear hunting season last year, on property where he’d hunted with his father, he went inside a vacant barn and lit some hay until it continued burning. He didn’t know if it continued to burn after he left, but a few days later he noticed the barn was down. He said he didn’t have any motive, he just did it.

Asked if he felt bad about any of the fires he set, Ambrosius said he was still haunted by a barn fire in 2018 because his uncle suffered a heart attack and died the next day.

Investigators say they questioned Ambrosius about other fires, including some in Outagamie County, but Ambrosius “denied up and down” any involvement.

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