For Immediate Release
St. Croix County Man Sentenced to 216 Months in Prison for 2018 Arson
HUDSON, Wis. – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in cooperation with the St. Croix District Attorney’s Office and the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigations State Fire Marshal’s Office, announces the sentencing of a St. Croix County man to 216 months in state prison for setting fire to a Woodville, Wisconsin, commercial building on December 29, 2018.
Kevin Grant, 71, was found guilty by jury on February 23, 2023, of intentionally setting fire to the Cubby Hole bar and restaurant in Woodville on December 29, 2018. The four-count conviction included arson of a building with intent to defraud, second degree recklessly endangering safety, unsafe burning of own building, and fraudulent insurances claim greater than $2,500.
According to the information presented at trial, on the morning of December 29, 2018, the Unified Fire Department responded to the Cubby Hole restaurant after reports of a fire. While working to extinguish the fire, firefighters detected an odor of gasoline and requested the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigations State Fire Marshal’s Office and ATF to assist in the origin and cause investigation. The fire was determined to be incendiary.
“Arson is an inherently dangerous crime because fires can quickly become out of control,” said ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeff Reed, of the St. Paul Field Division. “Anyone in or around the building could have been injured, and the firefighters who responded to the scene certainly were put in harm’s way to extinguish the fire. Clearly, this man did not carefully consider the risk to others before setting fire to his restaurant.”
As demonstrated during the 8-day trial, investigators were able to determine Grant used an accelerant to set fire to his business as part of a scheme to fraudulently obtain insurance money. The fire resulted in severe damage to the restaurant.
Grant retained a public insurance adjuster to assist in the preparation, presentation, and adjustment of insurance claims related to the fire at the Cubby Hole restaurant. Through the public insurance adjuster, Grant claimed that he was entitled to payment from the insurance company and was ultimately paid over $500,000 for property damage and other losses related to the fire.
“In this case, there were a few things that I think secured the conviction and convinced the jury to find Grant guilty in less than three hours of deliberation,” said District Attorney Karl Anderson, of St. Croix County.
According to court record, Grant had tried unsuccessfully for years to sell the vacant bar. In days leading up to the fire, Grant, by his own admission, filmed a video of the Cubby Hole business for insurance purposes. The video showed what appeared to be Grant staging the building for the fire by loading incendiary material at the point of the fire origin. He filmed a space heater in his garage that appeared to be the same space heater later found under the floorboards at the origin of the fire.
Not filmed in the video, but presented at trial was evidence of a trail of gasoline leading from the origin of the fire to a pile of plastic tables that Grant had moved in the days prior to the fire.
“Grant tried to explain the incriminating evidence by testifying in his own defense,” continued District Attorney Anderson. “But his testimony fell apart during cross examination, with major inconsistencies with his version of events. The most bizarre part of this case was that in the months leading up to the arson, Grant recorded his own phone calls with friends, family, and law enforcement, planting seeds that the building had electrical issues and that people were out to get him. Those claims were also debunked during the trial.”
“I’m very pleased with the outcome of this case,” said Reed. “Our partnership with the Wisconsin State Fire Marshal is invaluable. When agents from DCI and ATF arrive to investigate a fire scene, they are a formidable force.”
“For this investigation, an ATF certified fire investigator, an electrical engineer, and forensic scientists responded to the scene. They provided fire debris and trace analysis, and presented expert testimony during trial,” Reed continued. “ATF responds to fires all throughout our area of responsibility and can be a tremendous asset to our state and local partners. It’s not always well known that ATF will provide these resources in cases at the state level, but we are happy to do so when requested.”
Grant was sentenced today at the St. Croix County Courthouse before the Hon. Scott R. Needham. In addition to serving 216 months in prison, Grant was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and to pay restitution which will be determined at a later date.
This case was prosecuted by St. Croix County District Attorney Karl Anderson and Assistant District Attorney Aaron M. Damrau and was investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigations State Fire Marshal’s Office, the United Volunteer Fire Department, Woodville Police Department, and the ATF St. Paul Field Division with assistance from the ATF Fire Research Laboratory.
ATF is the federal agency with jurisdiction for investigating fires and crimes of arson. For more information about ATF, go to www.atf.gov. On Twitter, follow @ATFHQ for ATF news and @ATFStPaul for ATF news specific to Western Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas.