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Embattled Waseca bar owner charged with arson

(Waseca, MN) – An embattled Waseca bar owner is facing criminal charges, accused of setting fire to her own business.

Rachelle Lynn Schoknecht, 48, was charged Monday with two felony counts of arson in Waseca County Court, stemming from a fire at the Nashville Saloon last fall.  Schoknecht now lives in Monticello, Iowa.  The fire was reported at her bar the day after she was charged for allegedly stealing pull tab funds from a youth hockey association.

According to the criminal complaint, police responded to the fire at the Nashville Saloon at 4:36 a.m. on October 11, 2018, where they found Rachelle’s husband, John, extinguishing the flames.  John told police Rachelle was “drunk and babbling” as she repeatedly told him she smelled smoke from their State Street apartment.  John said he couldn’t smell anything, but finally got up to check on the bar and found it filled with smoke. He told investigators during various interviews that he believed Rachelle had started the fire.

Rachelle Schoknecht told police she had been threatened by people on Facebook, but used various excuses for not showing them the threats.  Detectives described her demeanor towards them as “abrasive,” in the complaint, and said it appeared she was acting like she had to vomit in order to avoid talking about the messages.  Rachelle told investigators she had asked John to check on the bar to make sure nothing was wrong, and “the next thing she knew,” there were fire trucks outside when she woke to go to the bathroom.

According to the complaint, the state fire marshal submitted a report on October 19, 2018 to Waseca investigators outlining evidence that Rachelle had started the fire at the Nashville Saloon.  According to the report:

  • The words “OUT” and “F**k U” that had been written on the window, bar, and wall appeared to be Rachelle’s handwriting;
  • Nashville Saloon was unable to pay bands;
  • The gas was shut off in the bar and the couple’s apartment;
  • Bank account funds were low;
  • There was no forced entry into the bar, damages, or theft;
  • Rachelle refused to hand over the alleged threatening messages.

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension concluded that gasoline was present on one of the samples taken from the bar floor for testing, according to the complaint.   A container in the basement also tested positive for gasoline.

Approximately $30,000 in clean-up costs were incurred from the fire, according to an estimate from an adjuster.  Additional repairs were also needed.

Rachelle Schoknecht is due in court on May 28th.

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