PLYMOUTH – Prosecutors have charged a Walkerton man with intentionally setting his home on fire in July.
The Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office charged James A. Malkowski, 60, with arson, killing a domestic animal and pointing a firearm.
According to court documents:
Police and firefighters were called to 2866 Plymouth-LaPorte Trail at about 5:15 p.m. Monday, July 29, on a report of a house fire.
When first responders arrived, the home was fully engulfed.
Firefighters and police initially believed Malkowski was in the home when the fire erupted. His 2013 Lincoln MKX sport-utility vehicle was parked in the home’s attached garage. As well, his employer and family gave statements leading responders to believe he was inside.
Investigators got a search warrant for the home, but a search by canine-assisted search teams and an aerial drone failed to find Malkowski’s remains in the home or on the property.
Malkowski’s girlfriend reached out to investigators the day of the fire. She said Malkowski texted earlier in the day, saying he was going to burn his home down and kill himself.
Marshall County sheriff’s officials determined during the early morning hours the next day that Malkowski had been found and taken to an area hospital.
Malkowski told investigators he had been drinking the day of the fire and didn’t remember setting the blaze.
Malkowski’s girlfriend told officers that she and Malkowski got into an argument two days before the house fire. During the argument, she said Malkowski pulled a handgun and pointed it at her. She also said her dog was in the home at the time of the fire.
Investigators were able to pull video from the woman’s phone showing Malkowski pointing a firearm at her. As well, they found the texts Malkowski sent to her saying he planned on burning the home down.
The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office was unable to officially rule a cause for the fire, labeling it undetermined. Investigators did find a dead dog inside the home, however.
An investigator with Malkowski’s home insurer said Malkowski filed a claim on the home in the days after the blaze.
First responders from both Marshall and Starke counties – and as far away as Bremen – were called to the house fire.
Firefighters were able to get the blaze under control in about 45 minutes, but the home is considered a total loss.
Along with Polk Township, firefighters from Walkerton, Koontz Lake-Oregon Township, Plymouth, and LaPaz-North Township responded to the scene.
Malkowski was being held on $25,000 cash bond in the Marshall County Jail late Tuesday. He was scheduled to make an initial appearance in Marshall Superior Court I on Tuesday.
It wasn’t immediately known if Malkowski has hired an attorney.