Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

A former Winthrop Harbor firefighter was being held on $1 million bail Thursday on charges of aggravated arson and attempted murder of his 70-year-old aunt, whom he is accused of attempting to frame for arson fires in Winthrop Harbor and Pleasant Prairie.

Keith Kauppi, 28, of Winthrop Harbor was taken into custody after authorities say he confessed to starting a December fire at the home of his aunt, Kathleen Kauppi and another on June 3 where the aunt suffered mild to serious burns.

According to police, Kathleen Kauppi was arrested this week for an arson fire in Pleasant Prairie after her nephew set her up, but those charges were dropped Thursday by prosecutors after the nephew admitted to that fire as well.

According to Joel Brumlik, chief of the Winthrop Harbor Police Department, the arson fires were an attempt by Keith Kauppi to hide the fact he was forging checks from his aunt’s bank account. On Feb. 27, Brumlik said, Kauppi was terminated from his position at the Winthrop Harbor Fire Department by Fire Chief Justin Stried after police accused Kauppi in December of forging checks. His aunt refused to pursue charges against him at that time.

Brumlik added that it is believed the arson incidents “were an attempt by Kauppi to conceal these thefts by killing his aunt.” 

Last week, police report, the aunt had gone to her brother’s house to stay, and then there was a fire there. According to the Pleasant Prairie Police complaint, Kathleen Kauppi, 70, was sleeping on a couch in the living room on Sunday night when Kauppi’s nephew and parents were awakened by a loud crash.

According to police, the nephew told investigators he ran downstairs to see the couch where his aunt was sleeping was on fire. He told police he threw water on the fire, extinguishing it, and then he and his father carried the couch, a burned blanket and some burned clothing outside. Police report the nephew said the living room smelled of gasoline.

The complaint states a police officer on the scene could smell gasoline on the couch, on a burned blanket and on scorched clothing found outside. According to the complaint, the aunt told a police officer that she “was sleeping on the couch when somehow it started on fire.” It states that she yelled at her relatives “she did not start the fire and would never speak to them again.”

Brumlik said the nephew started trying to forge is aunt’s checks again this week, and he was brought in for a several-hour interrogation where he eventually confessed.

After the confession, he accompanied an investigator from Winthrop Harbor to the scene, and he explained where he had placed the gasoline, said Sgt. Chris Willets of the Winthrop Harbor Police Department.

thanks Dan