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Fort Atkinson man faces attempted homicide charges in Janesville fire

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Jacob Piper
Fire destroyed a Janesville duplex May 28, 2020.
Fire destroyed a Janesville duplex May 28, 2020.

JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- A Fort Atkinson man is accused of throwing an incendiary device at a Janesville home Thursday morning that started a fire and burned the duplex to the ground.

Jacob M. Piper, 30, Ft. Atkinson was taken into custody Thursday afternoon.

Piper was arrested and and faces possible charges of:

• 5 counts of Attempted First Degree Intentional Homicide
• 1 count of Arson

Janesville Fire and Police were called about 5:45 a.m. Thursday to 220 S Franklin for a residential fire.

The first units on the scene found fire on all levels, the heaviest fire on the front of the building.

All five residents were able to get out safely, but were left without a home and lost everything, according to the fire department.

During interviews of witnesses, investigators determined that a white man was seen throwing a lit container at the front of the house.

Two of the witnesses were able to identify the person who threw the incendiary device at the home’s front door, which starting the building on fire. The suspect then fled on foot from the scene.

A vehicle on the street and the neighboring house were also damaged by the heat of the fire. The damage to the vehicle and 214 S Franklin is estimated at $10,000.

Janesville Police Lt. Charles Aagaard says Piper knew two of the residents of the fire-damaged property: a man; and a woman with a six year old child.

"We're still looking into how they knew each other," Aagaard says. "We just know they spent time with each other in the twenty-four hours leading up to the incident."

Aagard says Piper was interviewed at length by detectives, but did not divulge any potential motive for the crimes.

Sahara Cappis witnessed the inferno from her adjacent street. She says the man rushed out, and the woman dropped the child from a second floor balcony to the man below. Cappis says the woman's escape was also jumping from the balcony into the man's arms.

"We actually gave her clothes because she was only in a blanket," Cappis says. "Me and mom gave her clothes and sandals."

The Red Cross is assisting three occupants of 220 S Franklin, while the others are staying with family.

This video shot by Tony Heller shows a duplex in Janesville going up in flames this morning. Two families are now without a home. More on the fire coming up tonight on 27 News at 6.

Posted by WKOW 27 on Thursday, 28 May 2020
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Dan Plutchak

Social Media and Digital Content Manager, 27 News

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