Walworth County prosecutors Tuesday charged a town of Delavan man with five counts of arson in connection with fires two years ago, four months ago and last week.
Daniel J. Zitella, 29, of 2803 Darlington St. admitted starting most of the fires he’s accused of igniting at homes, a lawn mower and a Jet Ski—mostly because of disputes with the respective owners, according to the criminal complaint. All the fires happened in the town of Delavan.
Police most recently connected Zitella to two fires in the 900 block of Sutter Avenue on Dec. 10 and 12, according to the complaint.
The Dec. 10 fire involved a “severe amount of fire damage to the kitchen,” the complaint states. The fire appeared to start near the stove.
Zitella had stopped by a neighbor’s house to ask for $50 so he could take his cat to the veterinarian when he calmly asked, “Hey, did you know your neighbor’s house is on fire?” according to the complaint. The neighbor said Zitella’s attitude implied the fire was “no big deal.”
On Dec. 12, police responded to a fire at the latter neighbor’s house. Zitella had watched authorities respond to the fire, the complaint states. Three witnesses also said Zitella was in the house moments before the fire.
That neighbor said Zitella had texted him at 3:11 p.m. saying, “Got my 50?” He texted again at 3:31 p.m. asking, “Are you home?” and again at 4:45 p.m. saying, “your door open,” according to the complaint.
On Aug. 3, police responded to a suspicious fire in the 2800 block of Mabie Street, where they found a burned lawn mower. A detective noticed Zitella, who had been asked to keep an eye on the house, was “intently watching” as police responded, the complaint states.
Police returned to the same house the next day for a new fire investigation, this time involving a burned Jet Ski, according to the complaint. It appeared that pieces of paper had been used to accelerate the fire.
Two years ago, police responded to a fire at a house in the 800 block of Wallis Avenue. The fire had started in a bedroom where cardboard and drywall had been placed, according to the complaint.
The owner had asked Zitella, who was the only other person with keys, to watch the house while he was in Illinois, the complaint states.
A fire official reported the fire had been deliberately set, and he said Zitella had tried to draw his attention away from the fire’s location, according to the complaint.
Zitella admitted setting the 2016 fire, the lawnmower fire and the two fires on Sutter Avenue this year, according to the complaint. He denied setting the Jet Ski on fire.
While the other fires were connected to people owing Zitella $20 or $50, he said he had no connection to the homeowner in the Dec. 10 fire. According to the complaint, he said he went inside when he saw the door was open.
Online court records from Zitella’s bond hearing say he has “severe” mental health disabilities.
He is next set to appear in court at 4 p.m. Jan. 17 for a preliminary hearing.