WAUSAU (WAOW) – The rural Wausau homeowner killed in an explosion that destroyed his home likely wanted to die and rigged the property for a “very dramatic fire,” investigators said Monday.
The man's family had a history of making fireworks on the grounds, investigators said.
“This is more than likely going to be a suicide,” said Capt. Greg Bean of the Marathon County Sheriff's Department. “I don't think he was out to hurt anyone but himself.”
Remains were found in the basement of the home and they are believed to be those of 43-year-old Jesse B. Jehn, who lived there alone, Bean said.
Confirming Jehn's identity will require DNA testing, a process that could take at least three months, because of the severely burned remains, he said.
“Initial autopsy results confirmed there was an explosion,” Bean said. What caused it is not known because of the extensive fire damage, he said.
The explosion occurred about 7 a.m. Thursday, rocking the neighborhood about six miles northeast of Wausau.
No note or other evidence was left behind to confirm that Jehn intended to commit suicide with the explosion and fire, Bean said. But a “past history” with him strongly suggests suicide, he said, declining to elaborate.
Detective Jim Armstrong said four simple, crude, low-tech incendiary devices that were found as the house burned indicated that the plan was also to burn up two cars, an outbuilding and a camper.
Those devices, designed to ignite with a black powder fuse started by the house fire, for the most part didn't work, Armstrong said.
The fuses went to some combustible material, such as paper, that was set near some gasoline, he said.
“I think he was going for a very dramatic fire, a very dramatic effect,” the detective said. “There was a history of fireworks' manufacturing on the premises. The family made their own fireworks for years. What we found were based on fireworks components.”
According to Bean, Jehn's mother lives out of state and he has one sister.
“As far as we know, he was unemployed,” the investigator said. “The property has been in the family for quite some time.”