A Fremont man who was arrested for arson after allegedly setting a car on fire in January, has also been arrested and charged for a string of arsons throughout Dodge County over the past several months, including a fire at the Robert Hunt Family Sports Complex in Scribner.
According to the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office, 20-year-old Zachary T. Wanamaker was arrested and charged with multiple counts of arson and criminal mischief regarding a string of seven fires in Dodge County that occurred in December and January.
Along with Wanamaker, 18-year-old Connor Miller of Hooper was also arrested and charged for his involvement in the case.
Wanamaker was arrested and charged with five counts of 2nd Degree arson, a Class III felony, two counts of 3rd Degree arson, a Class II misdemeanor, two counts of felony criminal mischief and five counts of misdemeanor criminal mischief.
Miller was arrested and charged with one count of conspiracy to commit 2nd Degree arson, a Class III felony, and two counts of accessory to a felony, a Class IIII felony.
Both men are currently being held in the Saunders County Jail.
The incidents that led to Wanamaker’s arrest include a fire reported at a vacant house just north of Fremont on December 28, two fires reported at vacant house south of Nickerson and a shed in rural Ames on December 29, a pole shed fire in rural Nickerson on December 30, as well as two portable restroom fires reported on January 8 and 11th.
The string of alleged arsons also includes a blaze that extensively damaged the Robert Hunt Family Sports Complex in Scribner on January 5.
In the early morning hours of January 5, Scribner firefighters were called to the scene of the large, two-story building — a structure with concrete block walls, and a roof with wooden rafters covered by metal.
“By the time we got called, it was so far gone, we weren’t able to attack. It was more of a defensive type of mode,” Scribner Fire Chief Lonny Niewohner said at the time, adding that firefighters had to proceed with caution due to the cold weather.
Dedicated in September 2009, the building was mostly used for ball programs and games as a concession stand. The structure’s lower level housed restrooms, a kitchen area and storage facility. The upper level also included a small kitchen.
According to Dodge County Sheriff Steve Hespen, there were no reported injuries in any of the alleged arsons, and the largest monetary loss was the fire at Robert Hunt Family Sports Complex which is estimated at over $200,000 in damage.
“We had, through the investigation of all these fires, developed two suspects and a vehicle description in the arson cases which involved us and the Nebraska Fire Marshall’s Office,” Hespen said. “We had deputies working overtime doing surveillance around the county trying to find the individuals involved with these fires.”
The final fire over the two month period came on January 12 when Fremont Police Department officers were dispatched to a report that someone poured gasoline on a parked vehicle and set it on fire in the 700 block of West 11th Street in Fremont.
At the time, witnesses told police they saw the suspect flee the scene in a silver-colored car described as being a Mazda.
A short time later, a FPD officer saw a car matching the description in a business parking lot located in the 400 block of West 23rd Street. The car was driven by Wanamaker.
Police said that Wanamaker ran when the officer attempted to make contact with him while he was inside of the business. A perimeter was established and Wanamaker was apprehended and taken into custody with the assistance of the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office Deputy K-9 Unit.
Wanamaker was arrested and charged with 3rd Degree domestic assault, arson and obstructing a police officer. The estimated damage occurring to the vehicle Wanamaker allegedly lit on fire was estimated at $1,600.
According to Hespen, the vehicle Wanamaker was driving during the time of the car fire arrest matched the description of the vehicle Dodge County Sheriff’s Office was investigating related to the string of seven other fires.
Following Wanamaker’s arrest by FPD on January 12, the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office conducted interviews and subsequently issued arrest warrants for both Wanamaker and Miller regarding the other fires. The pair were arrested and charged on February 13th, according to the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office.