Alleged arsonist appears in Rusk Co. court, bar owners plan to rebuild

By: Joe Nelson Email
By: Joe Nelson Email

LADYSMITH, Wisc. (WEAU) - On Friday, a Rusk County judge found probable cause to bind 26-year-old Brett Cox over for arson and endangerment charges. He also denied Cox's request to lower his bail.

The day after a fire severely damaged his daughter's apartment, Mark Chandler said he suspected her boyfriend, Brett Cox as the suspect.

He said Cox left in a U-Haul for Oklahoma and picked up Chandler's daughter Kim and their daughter after the fire started.

"All of the sudden they leave and the place goes up in flames? anybody with common sense that studied the picture for a little bit would see that makes them look real guilty," Mark Chandler said. He said his daughter was not in Ladysmith at the time of the fire.

"Some officers were able to continue to talk with him and urge him to come back to the community to interview him about this matter," Rusk County District Attorney Andrea Nodolf said.

After officers said they traced the 911 call back to Cox, he decided to come back to be interviewed by police.

Police said he then admitted to starting papers on fire in his apartment above the Finish Line Sports Bar, Mar. 7.

Prosecutors said those statements make for a stronger case against him.

"(An admission of guilt) always helps a lot, a lot of times, especially in fires, most of our evidence is completely gone, based on the fire," Nodolf said.

She said it's a serious case because it put many people in danger, and major damage was done.

"This is a really small community, and it's something that's really close to the main street in Ladysmith and it's a big eyesore, and it's something that's really sad for our community.

Cox's defense attorney said his intent was to burn the papers, not to burn the building down.

The judge said it wasn't done safely and considered him a flight risk.

Don and Jayne Sanderson said they plan on rebuilding and were glad Cox wasn't released on bond.

Cox's arraignment is set for Apr. 23.

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