Arsonist gets 10 years for Frankenmuth fire
SAGINAW — A Lansing man was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for setting fire to an occupied home in Frankenmuth more than two years ago. Saginaw County Circuit Judge Darnell Jackson sentenced Zachery Franz Schlemmer, 41, on Jan. 12. A jury in October convicted Schlemmer of making a false report or threat of terrorism, second-degree arson, and unlawful possession or use of harmful devices causing property damage. Police said Schlemmer, about 3:30 a.m. on Dec. 17, 2020, started a fire at a home in the 600 block of Country Lane on Frankenmuth’s west side.
Frankenmuth Fire Chief Phil Kerns wrote in an email that “The home had once belonged to a family – who moved several years ago – and Schlemmer had been stalking their adult daughter” who wasn’t living at that house at the time Schlemmer set the fire. Frankenmuth Police Chief Don Mawer said Schlemmer had “an obsession with this girl that had gone on for quite some time, and he was under the misunderstanding that this person resided at this address.”
Setting fire to the home “was a mistake on his part; he picked the wrong house,” added Mawer. Mawer said Frankenmuth police officers weren’t familiar with Schlemmer. “We’d never heard of this guy,” Mawer said. The police chief spoke of the cooperative effort that put Schlemmer in prison.
“It was good work between all the agencies, including the prosecutor’s office that worked hand in hand with us, and it feels good to actually put him where he needs to be,” Mawer said. “This was a dangerous person.” Kerns said “a quick-acting neighbor, who happened to look outside (about 3:30 a.m.), alerted the homeowner and 911.”
Those first responding to the scene put out the blaze with handheld extinguishers. The fire was out when Frankenmuth Fire Department personnel arrived, “and firefighters did have to expose underlying portions of the structure at the front porch to extinguish hot spots,” Kerns said.
The Frankenmuth Fire Department, Kerns said, is grateful to Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Aaron Majorana and former Frankenmuth Police Department officers Jason Holsapple and David Danielson “for their investigative and other work to convict Schlemmer on three felony counts.” “This case could have had a very tragic outcome for the unsuspecting victims,” Kerns said.
The residence was occupied by four people, according to authorities. No injuries took place due to the fire. Mawer said Holsapple and Danielson have taken jobs elsewhere since the Schlemmer investigation. “They were both fairly young and they just moved on,” Mawer said.
Though Schlemmer was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in prison in connection with his three crimes, the judge gave him credit for 753 days Schlemmer already has served in the Saginaw County Jail while the criminal case made its way through court. Schlemmer represented himself at his trial. Saginaw lawyer Jeffrey J. Rupp was on a standby basis during the proceedings.
Jackson denied a motion from Schlemmer who sought a dismissal of the criminal charges against him, maintaining he was denied his right to a speedy trial. Schlemmer was jailed in December of 2020 and remained there for more than two years, as COVID-19 disease spread across the U.S. and Michigan courtrooms were closed or proceedings were limited in the ensuing months. “Number 1, with the pandemic, that slowed and stopped everything,” Mawer said. “And number 2, this was a very complex investigation.
“It took a little while and we worked hand in hand with the (Michigan State Police) Fugitive Team to actually find him. We also worked hand in hand for a number of months with the prosecutor’s office closing all the loops in the case.” Jackson agreed with a motion from Saginaw County prosecutors who asked the judge not to let Schlemmer question the alleged victims of his crimes at his October 2022 trial.