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Published: Saturday, 2/12/2005

Detectives focus on owner of Ida store

IDA, Mich. - Monroe County sheriff's detectives said they have eliminated robbery as the motive for an arson Feb. 3 that destroyed the Ida Hardware Store.

Deputies are focusing on the store's owner.

The owner, Kurt Kraftchick, 39, of Temperance, has failed to appear for two scheduled polygraph examinations with law enforcement personnel, has refused to further cooperate with the investigation, and has retained Toledo defense attorney Lorin Zaner, detectives said yesterday.

"He is the person of interest in our investigation at this time," Detective Tom Redmond said, adding that no criminal charges have been filed and the matter has not yet been turned over to the Monroe County prosecutor.

Mr. Zaner said Mr. Kraftchick passed a private polygraph test administered by Larry Silcox, a certified polygraphist with Truthgraph, Ltd. of Norwalk, Ohio. He said he has advised Mr. Kraftchick not to submit to a second interview with investigators until Mr. Zaner is able to get a copy or transcript of the first three-and-a-half-hour interview he gave authorities the night of the fire.

The fire, which detectives said was reported about 6:45 p.m., destroyed Mr. Kraftchick's hardware store on Lewis Avenue. A motorist told police that he dialed 911 after he saw smoke coming from the building, pulled over, and saw the owner at the side of the building. Firefighters from Ida, Summerfield, Dundee, and Bedford Township responded and took about 90 minutes to put out the flames.

Two volunteer firefighters were injured battling the blaze: One suffered a concussion and the other was treated for smoke inhalation. Arson investigators said the fire was fueled by a large amount of gasoline that had been used as an accelerant.

Mr. Kraftchick, whom detectives described as a very large man, told authorities that he had been robbed as the store was closing by an unarmed man who bound his hands, taped his mouth, and left him inside the building as the fire was started. He told investigators that he heard things in the store that made him believe there was a second suspect, but could not provide a detailed description of any suspects.

Detectives said Mr. Kraftchick told them he was able to escape out the back of the store and free his hands from his bindings, the same type of plastic strips that police and military authorities use in lieu of handcuffs.

Despite Mr. Kraftchick's claim that the alleged robber had twice slammed his forehead against the slab floor, detectives said the store owner displayed no evidence that he had been injured in any way.

Through their investigation, detectives said they have been able to account for every vehicle and every individual that visited the hardware store before firefighters arrived that day. They refused to elaborate.

Mr. Zaner said he has forwarded the names of relevant witnesses who have not been interviewed by investigators to the Monroe County prosecutor along with a copy of the results of the polygraph conducted by Mr. Silcox, a distinguished fellow with the Academy of Certified Polygraphists.

Mr. Silcox stated in a letter that he asked Mr. Kraftchick four questions during the Feb. 8 examination. The store owner replied "no" to questions about whether he planned the robbery and fire at his store, whether he started the fire, and whether he tied himself up or had someone else tie him up. Mr. Kraftchick replied "yes" when asked whether he was robbed by "people you do not know," the polygraph operator stated.

Suzanne Sarlls, the adjuster assigned by Mr. Kraftchick's insurance carrier, Hartford Insurance, confirmed that a claim had been filed in the wake of the fire and that she is still investigating the incident.

She said the claim had not yet been paid.

"We are being cooperative with the police and authorities," Ms. Sarlls said.



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