An investigation into a Tuesday fire at a vacant apartment building Tuesday led to six felony charges being filed by the Racine County District Attorney Thursday against a 16-year-old Racine boy.

Ja’Quale G. Dennis was charged in adult court with two felony counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, two felony counts of false imprisonment, felony arson, and felony first-degree recklessly endangering safety.

The attempted intentional homicide charges each carry a prison term of 60 years. The remaining four felonies carry a total fine of $145,000 and 64 years, six months in prison.

According to the criminal complaint: Emergency personnel responded to 1608 W. Sixth St., at 10:02 p.m. for a report of a fire. As debris was being cleared, several items, including a knife, a lighter and a water bottle with a hole punched in the top of it were located.

The building owner told police the property was a rental, but had been vacant for some time. A female later gave a statement that implicated Dennis as the person who started the fire.

Dennis, the witness, and another girl went to the house, she said, and at one point, Dennis locked them in, got two knives, put them to the other girl’s chest and said, “I’m going to stab her, I’m going to stab her.” He then pulled her shirt off, placed the knives to her ribs and said, “I’m going to cut her.”

When they tried to leave, Dennis allegedly threw one of the knives at the witness, which caused a small cut on her right hand. According to reports, the defendant then grabbed a larger knife, found a pair of black gloves and said, “This is what I wear to murder people.”

Suspect had been sent to hospital

Dennis, who had been transported to an area hospital after emergency personnel responded to the fire, had a pair of black gloves in his possession.

The witness and the other girl tried again to leave, but Dennis allegedly took a curtain rod and struck the other girl on the back.

While the two girls were sitting in the bedroom, the witness said that Dennis slammed his hand against a mirror and said, “I’m really going to kill y’all, I ain’t playing.”

He then spread lighter fluid on the bed, lit papers on fire in the stove, threw them on the ground, stomped out the fire and said, “Keep playing. I’ll kill you. I’ll go back to jail. I don’t care.”

Dennis again lit pieces of paper on fire and then lit the mattress on fire, the witness said. At this point, Dennis jumped out the window, the witness jumped out, and the defendant tried to close the window with the other victim still inside.

Dennis then allegedly said, “It doesn’t matter. The house is about to blow.” Eventually, the defendant went into the residence and came out with the other girl.

Dennis made his initial appearance in Racine County Circuit Court on Thursday afternoon and is due back in court Nov. 1 for a 9 a.m. preliminary hearing. He is being held in custody on a $250,000 cash bond.

Editor’s note: This version of the story was corrected to reflect that the charges were relating to an attempted homicide. We regret the error.

Rex Davenport

Rex Davenport is a reporter, editor and editorial project manager with more than 40 years of experience in newspaper, business magazines and other content channels.