Prosecutors: Argument may have prompted Oak Lawn man to blow up house
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org January 13, 2014 11:34AM
Remnants of a house explosion on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, at 8904 s. 55th Court, Oak Lawn. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 15, 2014 6:16AM
A heated argument with his wife and his anger over the couple’s smashed wedding photo apparently led an Oak Lawn man to burn down his house early Saturday, Cook County prosecutors said.
Arunas Samoska, 48, who was charged with two counts of aggravated arson and one of residential arson, appeared Monday at the county courthouse in Bridgeview before Circuit Court Judge Denise Filan.
She denied him bail, citing the explosion at the house endangering his neighbors’ lives and because Samoska told police what he did. He remains at the county jail.
Prosecutors said Samoska poured gasoline throughout his house on 55th Court, went to a gas station and bought $40 worth of gasoline, came back and poured the gas throughout his home, including in the living room and on the bed in the master bedroom. Oak Lawn police Division Chief Michael Kaufmann said Samoska bought the gas at a station at 87th Street and Central Avenue.
The vapors ignited when Samoska went to his garage behind the home to get more gasoline, prosecutors said. Kaufmann said it’s not unusual for gasoline vapors to ignite when they reach a pilot light on a furnace or water heater.
“He’s fortunate he’s alive, quite frankly. He was out of the house a few seconds before it exploded,” Kaufmann said.
The explosion and subsequent fire rendered the house a complete loss, and what was left has been demolished, village officials said. They said no one was in the home at the time of the explosion and there were no injuries.
The force of the explosion was so great, however, that bricks were scattered around the yard, walls were blown out, the front wall buckled and houses on both sides sustained damage. A house to the north had an estimated $10,000 in damage, a fire official said Saturday.
Police said they were called to the home, 8904 S. 55th Court, about 2 a.m., three hours before the fire, and intervened in a dispute among Samoska, his wife and a co-worker of Samoska.
The co-worker left the house, and Samoska’s wife and their four sons also left, leaving him by himself, prosecutors said Monday. But before she left, his wife smashed a wedding photo of her and Samoska, Assistant State’s Attorney Craig Taczy said.
“After the police left and the family left, he found the photo,” Taczy said.
He said that soon afterward, Samoska retrieved gasoline from his garage and began spreading it around the house, pouring it in each room. He then got more gas and spread it elsewhere in the house, Taczy said, and moments after he left the house to get more gasoline from the garage, the gas ignited.
After the house blew up, Samoska walked up 55th Court and “called a friend and admitted to blowing up the house and told him he wouldn’t be talking to him again. He used his cellphone to say, ‘I’m sorry’ on his Facebook account. And he called his wife and left a message on her voice mail saying he blew up the house,” the prosecutor said.
Samoska then returned to the house and was arrested in a neighbor’s driveway, admitting to police that he had poured the gas throughout the house, Taczy said. He said police found gasoline on his clothing, and Samoska was seen in a surveillance video at the gas station buying gasoline.
Samoska works as a truck driver, and he and his family have lived for six years in the house, which is owned by Samoska’s mother-in-law, who lives in Lithuania, Assistant Public Defender Anthony Ruffin said.
Samoska stood quietly during Monday’s hearing, his hands clasped behind him. Samoska’s wife sat in the front row of the courtroom, dabbing at her eyes during the hearing. She declined to comment afterward.
She was pursuing an order of protection against Samoska, prosecutors said.
Samoska’s next court appearance is set for Feb. 3.