A vigilant homeowner turned a rifle on two men suspected of setting fires in the Freeburg area over the past few weeks and held them until authorities arrived.
Bryan Boide, 23, of 418 Union Avenue in Belleville, and Nicholas Haegele, 19, of 123 Red Pine Avenue in O'Fallon, each were charged Friday morning in connection with six of seven arsons set in and near Freeburg since April 23. The seventh arson that occurred at Turkey Hill Lane in Belleville on May 9 still is under investigation.
St. Clair County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Johnson called the two a "Beavis and Butt-Head duo" because of the series of senseless crimes for which they have been charged.
"There really was no rhyme or reason for what they were doing other than they're idiots and they just wanted to go out there and start fires and stir up stuff," Johnson said. "In fact, one of them even made a comment that they wondered how much work we had put into this and how many investigators were working this case. So it doesn't necessarily make sense why they did this."
The two suspects were apprehended after they were discovered early Thursday morning outside a rural Freeburg home. The property owner was inside his home around 12:05 a.m. when he noticed flashlights flashing outside of his home. Johnson said the man then grabbed his rifle and was able to apprehend the two suspects at gunpoint. Not having his cell phone with him, the man then walked the two to a neighbor's house and made one of the suspects ring the doorbell. The neighbor then called 911. Freeburg Police and St. Clair County Sheriff's officers responded and took the two suspects into custody.
Johnson said authorities were not releasing the name of the rural Freeburg man who made the citizen's arrest.
"He stopped it before another one could happen," Johnson said. "Why else would they out there at midnight with flashlights? Obviously, they were searching to do another arson."
Johnson said each of the fires were at a shed or garage that stored farming equipment. He said substantial damage was caused at all of the fires, except one, where the blaze eventually burned out before it could cause any major destruction. He estimated that the fires caused between $1 million and $1.5 million in damages.
"We're talking about a lot of money," Johnson said. "And we're talking about the livelihood of a lot of people. These farmers and these people who own these sheds, this has changed their lives by these two bad guys going out there and burning down these sheds."
The first fire occurred April 23 in a metal shed at 6768 Press Road in unincorporated Freeburg. On May 1, a set fire destroyed another metal shed at 4667 Carr Road in unincorporated Freeburg. On May 7, three separate fires destroyed the Freeburg Township Building at 718 Hill Mine Road in Freeburg, another blaze was set at a shed west of Freeburg on Illinois 15 and anther fire was started at 8400 River King Road, but burned out with out any damage. On May 9, another fire destroyed a barn on Turkey Hill Lane in Freeburg. On May 11, an early morning fire destroyed a vacant residential building at the YMCA Outdoor Center near Belleville.
Johnson said that extra deputies, Freeburg Police officers and Illinois State Police officers had been patrolling the rural Freeburg area's back roads at night.
"Because it was that important," he said. "When you talk about the livelihood of these farmers and the people who live out there, and all of the trauma this causes, it was very important ... that we catch these bad guys."
Both suspects are being held at the St. Clair County Jail. Bond has been set for each at $1 million.Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.
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