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Rick charged with murder, arson in Bear Trap blaze


Ralph Ansami/Daily Globe

Ralph Ansami/Daily Globe AN EARLY morning fire destroys the Bear Trap Inn at Saxon, Wis., on March 12. AN EARLY morning fire destroys the Bear Trap Inn at Saxon, Wis., on March 12.

HURLEY - A Saxon, Wis., man has been charged with murder and arson in the March 12 fire that destroyed the Bear Trap Inn in Saxon, resulting in the death of Lisa Waldros.

Donald Rick, 44, who resided on Church Street at the time of the fire, is scheduled to appear in Iron County Court on the charges next Monday at 1:45 p.m.

He told investigators that he stabbed Waldros in burglarizing the tavern, then burned the building in an attempt to make it look like she had died in the fire.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Iron County Court on Monday, Rick also faces charges of mutilation of a corpse, armed burglary, armed robbery and possession of a firearm - all as a repeat offender.

The complaint, based on information from Iron County Sheriff Tony Furyk, was issued by Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Richard Dufour.

Rick, a convicted sex offender, was apprehended shortly after the fire and has been detained in the Iron County Jail at Hurley since then for probation violations relating to the prison time he served for the assault of a child 13 years ago.

The body of Waldros, 52, of Kimball, was found in the bathroom area of the structure two days after the fire. An autopsy was performed in Madison as part of the investigation.

The complaint says Rick entered the Bear Trap with intent to steal, while armed with a dangerous weapon, intentionally causing the death of Waldros. It is alleged Rick then disfigured the corpse with the intent of concealing the crime.

Family members and area citizens who gathered outside the burned-out rubble for three days after the fire wondered why Waldros couldn't escape the fire in the one-story building.

The complaint sheds light on that mystery.

The fire occurred around 3:20 a.m. on that Saturday. Brad Bigboy, of the Odanah area, reported the fire that morning as he was headed home on U.S. 2. He observed flames coming out of the tavern when he drove into town off the highway to check out the cause of the smoke.

Iron County Sheriff's Department deputy Jason Geach was dispatched to the scene, where he met with Bigboy, as Saxon Volunteer Fire Department members were already on the scene, hopelessly battling a blaze that was out of hand.

The owner of the tavern, T.C. Henning, the sister of Lisa Waldros, told the deputy her sister had been bartending that night and her car was parked in front of the building.

Later that morning, deputy Eric Snow was approached by a Saxon resident, Ray Smith, who was bitten by a dog that was being walked by Rick. Snow then went to Rick's residence to talk about the dog bite, when Rick quickly changed the conversation to the fire, according to the criminal complaint. Snow thought that was odd.

Rick at first said he arrived home around 11 that Friday night, then heard about the blaze the next morning.

Saxon resident Robert Massoglia said he had come into conact with Rick around 4:30 a.m. outside his residence on Saturday, however.

The state fire marshal's office arrived later in the day to begin its investigation, removing the debris, piece by piece.

After the body was found in the rubble, an autopsy revealed Waldros had been stabbed five times in the neck, with one wound severing the jugular vein.

A special agent with the state fire marshal's office said he noticed an odor on the victim's clothing that he believed to be an accelerrant, according to the complaint.

The clothing tested positive for gasoline, according to the state crime laboratory.

Two guns were found in a search of Rick's residence in Saxon, a violation of his probation, according to the criminal complaint.

On April 14, Geach and two special agents with the Department of Justice interviewed Rick. He said he had gone to the Lac du Flambeau casino on that Friday night, March 11, with his girlfriend, where they lost all of their money.

While driving home, Rick decided he would commit a robbery to regain cash, according to the complaint.

The Bear Trap was the only Saxon tavern among three in the town that was still open when they got home and there were several men in the bar, along with Waldros. Rick said he then decided to rob Waldros after the men had left, when she would be alone, closing up.

Rick said he went home, put on a mask, and obtained a folded hunting knife with a four-inch blade with him to return to the tavern.

When Waldros headed for the west door to lock it, Rick said he rushed her and tackled her in an attempt to steal money.

He said he opened up the knife, threatened the victim, and she took out her purse and the bar cash bag that contained $194.

Waldros pulled down Rick's mask, identified him, and he dropped the knife, leading to a scuffle in which Rick received a slight injury, the complaint says.

Rick then recovered the knife and stabbed Waldros in the throat, took the money from the bag and returned home.

He said he then got some gas and poured it on Waldros, the pool table and the floor, found a lighter and started the blaze that destroyed the tavern.

The first-degree intentional homicide charge carries a possible life sentence.


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