Michael Schaaf 2022

Michael Schaaf, right, looks on while his ex-wife, Kristi Chamberlain, testifies in court Tuesday afternoon.

A Wood County jury has found a Findlay man guilty of intentionally setting fire to an occupied home in Bowling Green.

The jury took five hours Friday to find Michael Schaaf, 50, guilty of attempted murder, three counts of aggravated arson and breaking and entering.

During closing arguments Friday, Wood County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Alyssa Blackburn said Schaaf set the fire because he was frustrated and angry, and wanted revenge on his ex-wife.

On July 8, 2020, Floyd Chamberlain woke at 2:30 a.m. to his wife coughing, the smell of smoke and the fire detectors going off in his home on Newton Road.

The Chamberlains are the parents of Schaaf’s ex-wife, Kristi Chamberlain.

Floyd Chamberlain led his wife, Joyce, to the garage, put her in a car, and backed it out to safety, Blackburn said.

He and a neighbor fought the fire while Joyce, who has Alzheimer’s, wandered back into the house, she said.

A blue lighter was found 15 feet from the home and submitted into evidence.

An investigator with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation testified that Schaaf’s DNA was on the handle of the lighter, Blackburn said.

The investigation also found that there was gasoline among the fire debris.

“This was no accident,” Blackburn said. “This was a fire that somebody poured gasoline … around a propane line and set the house on fire.”

Schaaf became hateful and physically violent after suffering a motorcycle crash and just couldn’t leave his ex-wife Kristi alone, she said.

Testimony was entered that arsonists often return to the scene of the crime, and a neighbor reported seeing a motorcycle matching the description of one owned by Schaaf drive by two days after the fire.

“He drove up to the house after the arson, got off the motorcycle then walked behind the house to look at the scene,” Blackburn said,.

His phone pinged as he traveled from Findlay to Toledo on July 7, and there was a gap before it once again pinged in Findlay. Blackburn said Schaaf left his phone at home when he drove to Bowling Green to start the fire.

Schaaf texted his sister the morning of the fire and said he needed to leave Ohio, and he made inconsistent statements when questioned by investigators, she said.

“He knew about Joyce’s Alzheimer’s and the difficulties she would have,” Blackburn said.

Defense attorney Drew Wortman said there were a lot of assumptions in the state’s case.

He said Floyd Chamberlain’s testimony of what woke him up – the smell of smoke, his wife coughing or the smoke detectors – differed depending on who he talked to.

Chamberlain admitted the shortest route out of the house was through the sunroom, but he went to the garage. First, he said he went outside and saw the fire, then he changed it to spotting it from the inside, Wortman said.

A Wood County Sheriff’s deputy testified that he found the Chamberlains in their kitchen and that he and Floyd Chamberlain discovered the fire, Wortman said.

The investigation stopped with Schaaf, and no attention was given to the neighbor who appeared at 2:30 a.m. to help fight the fire or to Floyd Chamberlain himself.

The first assumption was ruling out the neighbor as well as Kristi Chamberlain and Floyd Chamberlain, “assuming they had nothing to do with it,” Wortman said.

A Wood County Sheriff’s detective testified that in all the cases he has investigated, he always looks at the homeowner; he didn’t this time, Wortman said.

The second assumption came on July 10, when at 10 p.m., a neighbor looked through the blinds and saw a bright-colored motorcycle. The assumption was made since Schaaf had a bright orange Harley-Davidson, it must have been him, Wortman said.

The third assumption was that a white truck, caught on camera driving by the Chamberlain home, was driven by Schaaf. The picture doesn’t show the driver or the license plate, Wortman said.

Testimony of the cell phone shows inactivity between 1:14 and 2:06 a.m. but that does not prove it was shut off, just that it was not moving, he said.

Another assumption was made that Schaaf was lying during the interview with detectives. They knew his client had a traumatic brain injury and sometimes has trouble getting words out when he is frustrated, Wortman said. He had also just left a domestic relations hearing.

“He agreed to speak to them without an attorney,” Wortman said of his client. “He wasn’t deflecting. He wasn’t lying. He agreed to get his DNA sampled.”

A DNA expert testified that a continuous swab was done on the lighter, so there is no way to tell where Schaaf’s DNA was, nor does it prove he was at the home.

There also was a second DNA profile on the lighter that was too small to test, Wortman said.

“The only persons that saw the lighter was (the deputy) and (the neighbor). No one even determined if that lighter works,” he said.

The last assumption is that Schaaf’s phone was shut off during the time of the fire, which proves he did it.

“You’re going to convict Michael Schaaf of attempted murder … based on assumptions?” Wortman asked.

“There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence in this case … and it’s thin,” he said. “Use your common sense when evaluating this circumstantial arson case.”

In her rebuttal, Blackburn said Floyd Chamberlain woke, smelled smoke and in his worry over his wife, “he’s not going to remember the sequence of every single detail.”

It is not uncommon for guilty people to agree to be interviewed by law enforcement, Blackburn said. That was two months after the fire and “he thinks he got away with it.”

The DNA on the lighter proves his guilt, she said.

“It doesn’t matter where this lighter came from. … What matters is that his DNA was on this lighter at the scene of the crime,” she said.

“What motive would anyone else have? Michael Schaaf wanted revenge, he wanted to hurt Kristi any way he could,” Blackburn said.

Sentencing is set for June 10.

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