LAPORTE — A local man on trial for arson, accused of burning down his family's home, had "nothing to gain" from the alleged act, his attorney said Wednesday.
Kevin Schmidt, 41, was charged with three felony courts of arson in the June 2010 fire that destroyed the Westville ranch-style home he, his wife and three children were living in.
LaPorte County Deputy Prosecutor Julianne Havens said during opening arguments that Schmidt and his wife, Robin, had gotten into an argument after a night of heavy drinking. She left and went to her brother's house nearby. The brother and two friends came to the house and left with the children.
Havens said Schmidt was the only person at the rented home when a neighbor saw flames starting to build and Schmidt opening his garage door and leaving on a motorcycle.
Havens said investigators found that the fire had started in two separate locations where gasoline had been detected.
Schmidt's defense attorney, Larry Rogers of Valparaiso, said during his opening statement that Schmidt doesn't know how the fire started. Rogers said Schmidt had been struck in the face by his brother-in-law and was only alerted to the fire by his barking dog.
Rogers said Schmidt, who had done many improvements to the home and was without insurance, had nothing to gain from an arson.
Havens countered that emotions likely had a part in the fire.
"Never underestimate spite as a motivator," she said.
Initial charges were dismissed when the couple's landlord had moved and couldn't be located. They were refiled in 2014 when the landlord was located and gave investigators a statement.
Schmidt and his wife divorced and later remarried and now live in Wanatah with their five children.