KEARNEY — A Kearney man has been convicted of setting fire to the steps of his apartment house in June 2019.
Robert Thormodsgard, 58, of Kearney pleaded no contest last week in Buffalo County District Court to felony first-degree arson in June in Kearney. In exchange for his plea a second charge of felony first-degree arson on Feb. 19 was dismissed.
Judge John Marsh accepted his plea and ordered the state probation department to do a presentence investigation.
Findings of that report — including background information on a defendant, family and criminal history, employment record and a substance abuse evaluation — will help Marsh issue an appropriate sentence.
Sentencing will be held in January.
Around 4:22 a.m. June 16, 2019, Kearney Police Department officers were called to the apartment house for a report of the smell of smoke coming from apartment No. 3, which belonged to Thormodsgard. There had been several fires in the entryway during the past year, Thormodsgard said, and the entry door at the top of the stairs couldn’t be secured.
He believed people were starting the fires, records indicate.
KPD and a Nebraska Fire Marshal investigated the incident and found numerous spots on the wooden stairs where it appeared a lighter had been held to the steps. A set of wooden closet doors in the entryway of the apartment house also appeared to have burn marks, according to the report.
On Jan. 10, Thormodsgard was interviewed by KPD. Records show that Thormodsgard was concerned about his safety and allegedly believed starting fires would make his landlord put a secure door at the top of the stairs. He later was arrested on a Buffalo County warrant.