Story By Pete Zervakis UPDATE (WKOW) — A home in Cottage Grove that was supposed to house a convicted sex offender is a total loss after a second fire Sunday night.
The Dane County Sheriff’s Office says it’s now offering a reward for tips that lead to an arrest. They’re calling the home at 4721 Gaston Circle an arson.
This is the second time this home has gone up in flames, since the community was notified a convicted child sex offender, Howard Nyberg, was going to move in. The first fire caused about $90,000 in damage. The sheriff says the house had recently been repaired, but this fire destroyed the home.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation is helping the Dane County Sheriff’s Office in its investigation. Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the state’s arson hotline at 1 (800) 362-3005.
COTTAGE GROVE (WKOW) – Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said his department is treating a fire at a home in the 4700 block of Gaston Circle, in the Town of Cottage Grove, as arson.
The home, which was also damaged in a fire in December, was expected to soon house a convicted sex offender.
Howard Nyberg, 40, was scheduled to move in before the end of the month. Nyberg was convicted on two counts of sexual assault of a child in 1994. The neighborhood was originally told he would be moving in, after being released from a secure treatment facility, shortly before the first fire.
Mahoney said “clear evidence” indicated the first fire at the home, in December, was arson.
“We’ll handle this investigation tonight like it was an arson,” Mahoney said of Sunday’s fire. “But we won’t know for sure until we can get into the residence and begin investigating.”
“We have talked to neighbors and there are some leads that have come forward from individuals in the neighborhood and we’ll be moving swiftly on those to try and bring an end to this,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney and other officials from the Dane County Sheriff’s Department joined the Town of Cottage Grove Police Department at the scene of Sunday’s fire.
Fire Departments from Cottage Grove, McFarland, Deerfield, Blooming Grove and Sun Prairie were among those that responded.
The fire broke out around 7:15 p.m. and smoke could be seen still emanating from the home well past 10 p.m.
Mahoney said he did not believe there were any injuries.
“What I’m most concerned about is the neighbors,” Mahoney said. “We have homes in close proximity.”
The Department of Corrections leases the home at 4721 Gaston Circle from a private citizen. Mahoney said he did not believe the DOC should alter its plans to move Nyberg into the home. He said that would set a bad precedent.
“We have not only all of our investigators here, we have state arson investigators joining us today and, depending on the direction it goes, we may even bring federal investigators in,” Mahoney said.
Neighbors in the area are lobbying the Town of Cottage Grove’s common council to pass an ordinance preventing other homes in the town from being leased to the DOC for the purpose of housing sex offenders, or to sex offenders directly.
A neighbor Sunday night said the group still plans to advocate for that ordinance.
COTTAGE GROVE (WKOW) — Dane County sheriff’s officials confirm they are headed to a fire on Gaston Circle in Cottage Grove.
Dane County Communications tells 27 News a call came in around 7:15 p.m. Sunday night. Cottage Grove, Blooming Grove, Deerfield, Sun Prairie, Marshall, and McFarland fire departments were all called to the home at 4721 Gaston Circle.
This is the same home where Dane County authorities are investigating a suspected arson case in December. A registered sex offender is set to move into the home before the end of the month.
Stay with 27 News and wkow.com for the latest on this developing story.