Man charged with homicide, arson for July Chippewa Falls house fire

58-year-old Scott Vaningan was charged in Chippewa County Circuit Court on Tuesday.
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 9:55 AM CDT
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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) - A Chippewa Falls man is charged in court after a house fire in Chippewa Falls on July 27 that killed one person.

58-year-old Scott Vaningan was charged with 1st-degree intentional homicide, arson of a building without the owner’s consent, mutilating a corpse and bail jumping in Chippewa County Circuit Court Tuesday.

According to documents filed with the charges on Tuesday, officials were called to a fully-engulfed house fire in Chippewa Falls on July 27 at 3:48 p.m. After the fire was controlled, Chippewa Falls Police found a woman’s body that had been burned beyond recognition. Investigators said the fire originated from two different places, an indicator of arson, and that witnesses said that they had seen a man arrive on a motorcycle about a half-hour before the fire. Witnesses told police that they frequently heard arguing from the home, but the altercation the morning of the fire seemed more intense.

In the criminal complaint, an autopsy determined that the woman was killed before the fire, as medical examiners found multiple puncture wounds in the victim’s neck.

Court documents said that Vaningan’s GPS monitoring device, which was part of bond conditions for a previous and unrelated charge of threatening a law enforcement officer, showed he left the home at the time of the fire, and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections said that the monitor was removed at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday near Jim Falls. Vaningan was found near a home in Barron County at 6:55 p.m. with a box cutter covered in blood. Vaningan also had blood on his pants and scratch marks on his arm.

Chippewa Falls Police Chief Matthew Kelm said it’s important to move quickly in this type of criminal investigation

“When we know this is a major case, we want to get all the resources in hand and moving swiftly because we know how important it is to the community,” Kelm said. “When, you know, something as tragic, as violent as this happens, the community really wants reassurance that it’s solved, that we know who did it and we hopefully apprehend them quickly, which is what we had in this case.”

Vaningan is being held at the Chippewa County Jail on a $1.5 million cash bond with conditions that he not possess any dangerous weapons, leave the state of Wisconsin or come with a quarter-mile of 721 Superior Street, Vaningan’s listed address and where the fire took place. He was taken into custody on Thursday, July 28 without incident, according to the Chippewa Falls Police Department.

Chippewa Falls Police said in a release that the victim in the fire was known to Vaningan and that the fire is an isolated incident. Family members of the victim have been notified, but police are not releasing the name of the victim at this time. Crews were called to the fire on Wednesday, July 27, and put out the fire in 15 minutes. Damage to the home was estimated at $125,000.

Kelm said multiple organizations worked together as a part of this investigation.

“Many of our officers were involved, both in the investigation, the administration of how the process went forward, preserving the scene,” Kelm said. “We also had investigators from DCI, the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation, the Wisconsin State Fire Marshall’s Office, and the Chippewa Falls Fire and EMS who were really critical to helping us get that fire under control and preserve that crime scene.”

Vaningan appeared in Chippewa County Circuit Court on Wednesday morning for his initial appearance. His next scheduled court date is a preliminary hearing on August 11.

Vaningan faces a life sentence in prison if convicted of the homicide charge. If convicted of Arson, Vaningan could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison, fined up to $100,000 or both.

Superior Street House Fire

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