BLACK RIVER FALLS, WI (WTAQ) - A former employee of an historic Jackson County restaurant has been accused of burning the place down, to help his boss with financial problems.
19-year-old Kyle Rott was charged Tuesday with felony arson for a blaze 15 months ago.
It destroyed the Rustic Mill Bar and Restaurant in a 146-year-old building near Black River Falls. Prosecutors said a couple ran the eatery for almost a year before closing it down a few days before the blaze.
The criminal complaint said a man who owned it offered $10,000 to Rott for starting the fire – but Rott said he’d do it for a couple packs of cigarettes, and they laughed and shook hands.
The man’s son reportedly overheard the conversation, and he thought it was a joke until Rott said the day of the blaze he would keep his word. The male owner told investigators he owed over $60,000 to vendors and a building contractor – and while he said he wished the restaurant would burn down, he hoped Rott wouldn’t take the offer seriously.
The owner has not been charged, but District Attorney Gerald Fox says the investigation is continuing and more arrests are possible.
For now, Rott is free on a signature bond. He’s due back in court October 22nd.
The Rustic Mill building opened in 1866. It was a grist mill and a nightclub before it became a restaurant in the mid-1960’s.