TAYLOR COUNTY, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – An Athens, Wis. man is charged after a structure fire in Taylor County that left one person dead.
A criminal complaint shows 50-year-old Matthew Zarins is charged with homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit manufacturing of methamphetamine, possession of materials for manufacturing methamphetamine, maintaining a drug trafficking place, and possession of waste from methamphetamine manufacturing -1st offense.
According to the criminal complaint, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, around 12:11 a.m., the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a structure fire at N44 Clark Drive in the Town of Maplehurst.
The criminal complaint says Zarins reported his house was on fire. Zarins reported his wife was outside with him, but she had burn injuries. Authorities responded.
According to the criminal complaint, authorities learned there was no water and no electricity in Zarins house. The house was heated by burning wood. The home was burned down, more or less to the frame. The home consisted of a single-story camper style/mobile home.
The criminal complaint says Zarins provided consent to search the camper.
According to the criminal complaint, authorities found “several items laying outside and inside the burned structure consisting of but not limited to the following: a glass mason jar lid with a plastic hose coming out of the top, a plastic bottle with a plastic hose coming out of the top, cans of Coleman fuel, multiple glass beakers, a glass beaker with what appeared to be tin foil wrapped around the top, a glass measuring cup glass mason jars, assorted glassware and vials, a glass smoking device with a hose wrapped around it consistent with smoking methamphetamine.” A fire chief advised he suspected there was drug activity at the structure as he had since saw glass tubes, beakers, and hoses in the charred remains of the structure.
The criminal complaint says in an interview Zarins denied knowing anything or being involved in the manufacturing of methamphetamine. Zarins admitted to smoking methamphetamine five days prior to when he was asked by authorities.
51-year-old Jennifer Johnson of Stanley died on Jan. 12, 2023, due to the injuries she suffered.