Judge orders $250,000 cash bond for suspect in fatal Montello fire

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MONTELLO (WKOW) — A judge has ordered a $250,000 cash bond for the suspect in a fire in Montello April 20 that killed her ex-boyfriend.

Frances E. Rittmann, 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.

Rittmann 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.

She appeared in Marquette County Circuit Court Tuesday.

Investigators say they interviewed Rittmann, 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 Rittmann 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.

Gloria Benzine, Gilmartin’s mother, also received a call from her son just hours before his house was allegedly set on fire.

“I said, ‘If you want, you can come here,’” she said. “‘No! I don’t want to get you any more involved than you were, because something could happen mom. I love you.’ And I said, ‘Well, I love you too.’”

Benzine says he was frightened of Rittmann after he said a couch caught fire in his garage.

“He says, ‘I think it was Frances,’” Benzine said. “‘I think she’s going to blame me for ruining her furniture that we couldn’t move to her place.’”

Rittmann returns to court on June 19.

Montello fire. Photo courtesy of Diane Vielbaum
Montello fire. Photo courtesy of Diane Vielbaum


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