Explosion hospitalized two men, destroyed home
By Robert Cloud
The explosion that severely injured two men in July resulted in an 11-count criminal case.
Jonathan N. Reiher, 27, is charged with three counts of reckless endangerment, one count of stalking, one count of aggravated battery, two counts of battery, one felony count of damage to property, one misdemeanor count of battery and two counts of disorderly conduct.
He is accused of damaging the propane gas furnace in the Farmington home by breaking off the pipe to its regulator and causing the gas leak that led to the explosion.
The home belonged to Reiher’s ex-girlfriend, who had obtained a court order to evict Reiher on June 9. She earlier moved out of her home on Erickson Road in Farmington and into a home on Evans Street in Waupaca.
Prior to his vacating the house, Reiher allegedly destroyed the kitchen cabinets and appliances with an electric saw, tore the toilet out of the floor, ripped the bathroom sink and mirror from the wall, knocked holes in the drywall and damaged the doors throughout the house.
On Friday, July 22, two men and two women were in the Farmington home, repairing the extensive damage. They had been working there for several weeks.
Shortly before 12:30 p.m. that day, the workers decided to cook some brats for lunch. When they turned on the stove, they smelled gas.
After turning off the stove, the two men went into the basement to find the source of the leak. They were in the basement when the explosion occurred.
Authorities reported the two men were so seriously burned that the skin was hanging off their arms.
Gold Cross Ambulance transported one of the injured men to ThedaCare in Waupaca and the other to ThedaCare in Neenah. Both men were later airlifted to St. Mary’s Burn Center in Milwaukee.
According to the criminal complaint, the 56-year-old victim had completed the last of his skin graft surgeries as of Aug. 8. He has been under heavy sedation since July 22, and the hospital is just starting to reduce his medication.
The 39-year-old victim was still intubated and sedated as of Aug. 8, and waiting for further surgery.
The blast lifted part of the home off its foundation and caused substantial damage.
Deputy State Fire Marshal Kevin Heimerl reported evidence that the furnace was damaged prior to the blast.
He found that the pipe coming into the furnace’s gas regulator had been completely broken off, and the fan had been damaged by blunt force, apparently with a hammer or a heavy tool.
The furnace was installed in 2014.
Reiher’s ex-girlfriend told investigators the propane gas tank had been completely emptied in May.
History of domestic abuse
Deputies responded to domestic violence complaints against Reiher several times prior to the explosion.
On April 25, Reiher called 911 and reported his girlfriend kicked in the door and hit him, the complaint says.
Waupaca County Deputy Dan Lewinski responded to the complaint, but was unable to find evidence of recent damage. He also reported Reiher did not appear to have been injured.
On April 26, Lewinski went to the ex-girlfriend’s home on Evans Street. As he knocked on the door, Reiher came around from the back of the house, then left.
Lewinski spoke with the woman’s father, who also lived there. The father told Lewinski that Reiher beat up the woman the prior night while she was at the Eriskson Road home.
The father then texted the woman’s cellphone and asked her to send a photo of her injuries, which she did. Lewinski reported seeing a scratch on her neck.
The woman told Lewinski she went to the home on Erickson Road to discuss their children. She said Reiher became angry, then choked her, punched her and pushed her to the floor. While she was on the floor, Reiher allegedly tried to drag her out of the house.
While Lewinski was speaking with the father, he saw Reiher drive up to the house.
Lewinski went outside and told Reiher to leave. Reiher reportedly said he did not have to leave and he wanted to know if Lewinski had made contact with his ex-girlfriend.
On May 16, Reiher called 911 and reported vandalism at the Erickson Road home.
Deputy Dave Huberty responded to the complaint, but he could not find Reiher when he arrived.
Huberty walked around the house and found a broken side door that was hanging by its hinges. Inside the house, the deputy found piles of discolored clothing.
About 10 minutes later, Reiher arrived. He said his ex-girlfriend came into his home while he was away and soaked his clothes and the bed with bleach. He also accused her of stealing $600 in cash, the complaint says.
Huberty reported Reiher claimed he had text messages from his ex-girlfriend admitting she had dumped bleach on his bed and clothing.
Huberty then asked Reiher to print out the text messages and prepare a written statement. Reiher never provided the information.
On June 2, Waupaca Police Officer Diana Flatoff responded to a complaint from the Evans Street home.
The ex-girlfriend said Reiher had been continually harassing her and threatening to take her children away ever since they broke up.
She said Reiher began texting her that morning, saying he wanted to see the children, take her to court and take away the children. She told him he was not allowed in her home.
The woman told Flatoff that Reiher arrived anyway and began pounding on her door. She and her children hid inside a bedroom until he left. She said she was afraid to go outside the house.
Flatoff called Reiher and told him he was not allowed to go onto the property. If he went there, he would be arrested for trespassing.
On June 9, Judge Phillip Kirk ordered that Reiher be evicted from the Erickson Road home. He was given 10 days to vacate the premises. An agreement between the parties stipulated Reiher would not be liable for any damage or repair to the property after he vacated the residence.
On June 12, Deputies James Santiago and Lewinski responded to a report of vandalism at the Erickson Road home.
They found extreme damage throughout the empty house.