MONTELLO (WKOW) — The suspect in a fire in Montello April 20 that killed a man is facing three felonies.
Frances E. Rittman, 42, of Montello, has been charged with first-degree-intentional homicide in the death of Daniel R. Gilmartin, 43, who died in the fire, according to the criminal complaint.
Rittman also faces two counts of arson. One for the fire April 20 that killed Gilmartin, and a second charge for a fire Rittman is suspected of setting April 1.
Rittman will appear next in Marquette County Circuit Court at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Investigators say they interviewed Rittman, Gilmartin’s ex-girlfriend on April 25.
She told investigators that she “intended to cause a fire that would kill herself along with Gilmartin, but after setting the fire, she changed her mind about killing herself and left the residence,” according to the criminal complaint.
She then went to the Dollar General in Montello and stayed there until 2:20 p.m.
The morning of the fire, Gilmartin had called a friend and told him that Rittman had earlier tried to start a couch on fire at his home. The friend said he could tell Gilmartin was worried about Rittman and asked him to check on him later, according to the complaint.
Dispatchers at 911 received a call about 2:15 p.m. reporting the fire.
The Montello Fire Department responded and found the home engulfed in flames when they arrived. A body was found inside the house, according to a news release from the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office.
The flames were so hot that siding on the surrounding houses started to melt.
“All of the sudden the glass started breaking and we all ran up the hill,” said neighbor Mike Vielbaum, who witnessed the fire.
“Then it just blew,” said Diane Vielbaum. “It just went up. Big flames. I’m sure the person that’s in there — I’m hoping that the smoke got him before the fire did. Because it was a sad time.”
Their son, Jeremy Vielbaum, knew both Gilmartin and Rittman, who he says were at one time engaged. Court records show Rittman was evicted, and Jeremy says he helped her move out.
“She asked if I’d help her, and I did,” he said. “She was always asking me questions about how he’s doing and everything, how she wants to get back together with him and he doesn’t want to work it out… I just knew they had a lot of problems and stuff. He was a good guy.”
The fire and death are under investigation by the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office, Marquette County Coroner, State of Wisconsin Department of Justice Fire Marshalls and Montello Fire Department.
Oxford Fire Department along with the Princeton Fire Department assisted under mutual aid. Marquette County EMS and the sheriff’s office also responded.