Man faces arson charges for fire at future home of sex offender

House was target of suspected arson Dec. 8

A Cottage Grove man has been arrested in connection with the arson in the town of Cottage Grove at a home intended for a registered sex offender.

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office said fire crews were called to 4721 Gaston Circle in the town of Cottage Grove at 7:33 p.m. Sunday and found flames coming from the home when they arrived.

The house was the target of a suspected arsonist on Dec. 8. In that fire, the home sustained $90,000 in damage. It was recently, but is now considered a total loss after the latest fire.

Russell A. Speigle, 50, became a person of interest early in the investigation, officials said. After the second fire, detectives went to his residence on King Drive to speak with him. Detectives then learned he had left town shortly after talking with him.

Sheriff’s detectives found Speigle Monday night at a residence in Muscoda, according to the release. He was taken to UW Hospital and treated for burns. He was released Tuesday, and was subsequently booked into the Dane County Jail on a tentative arson charge.

“What’s most alarming — Speigle lived doors away, endangering public safety and his own neighbors,” Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney said.

The house was to be the future home of convicted sex offender Howard Nyberg, 40. Nyberg is currently being held at a supervised living facility in Mauston. He pled guilty to second-degree sexual assault of a child in 1994.

Mahoney said Speigle voiced his opposition to the move during a public hearing.

“Like many, he voiced his displeasure, which is the place to carry out those kinds of actions is at the public notification meeting so that we can address those concerns,” Mahoney said. “What is unacceptable is acts of vigilantism like this.”

The sheriff’s department is still looking for a gas can that looks similar to one that was seen on security cameras near the home.

The investigation into the arson fire and whether Speigle was responsible for the first fire is ongoing. Officials ask anyone with information to call the state’s Arson Hotline at 1-800-362-3005 or the Dane County Sheriff’s Office at 608-284-6900.