By LORRAINE SWANSON
OAK LAWN, IL — A shattered wedding picture may have been the tipping point for an Oak Lawn man accused of blowing up his own house early Saturday morning, says a Cook County prosecutor.
Arunas Samoska, 48, of the 8900 block of West 55th Court, appeared in court Monday, charged with residential arson and two counts of aggravated arson.
If convicted on all three felony charges, he faces up to 65 years in prison.
The explosion at his home damaged two adjacent houses. Emergency crews responded to an explosion and fire at 5:14 a.m. Saturday. The house was fully engulfed in flames when they arrived and threatened to spread to other nearby homes. The explosion leveled the home, which has been declared a complete loss.
Cook County prosecutor Craig Taczy said police visited the Samoska house earlier that morning because of a reported fight with a co-worker. Samoska received a black eye but declined to press charges.
Shortly after, Samoska’s wife and four sons left the house with his co-worker while Samoska remained behind, police said.
After he found a smashed wedding picture in the house, he got angry and retrieved a gas can from the garage, according to the prosecutor. He began pouring gasoline on the couch and the bed in the master bedroom, the prosecutor alleged.
Samoska went to a gas station where he is said to have spent $40 on more gasoline. When he returned home, he allegedly proceeded to pour gasoline in other parts of the house.
The prosecutor said Samoska was on his way to the garage to get more gas when the house exploded. Oak Lawn police said vapors from the gasoline likely set off the explosion.
After the explosion, the prosecutor said, Samoska walked to 87th Street, where he called a friend and told him he’d just blown up his house and would never speak to his friend again.
Samoska also apologized for his alleged act on Facebook, and left his wife a voice mail message on her phone stating that he had blown up the house, the prosecutor said.
Police found Samoska outside his house when emergency crews arrived. He was questioned soon after and taken into custody, the prosecutor said.
Due to the severity of the fire and explosion, his admissions to his friend, wife and police, his Facebook apology, and the endangerment to his neighbors’ lives, Cook County Judge Denise Filan denied bail.
Samoska’s wife was also in the courtroom on Monday but declined comment. She was on her way to another courtroom to seek a restraining order, the prosecutor said.
Police said security video shows Samoska purchasing more gasoline at a gas station. He is also said to have confessed to police to blowing up and torching the home where he lived with his wife and children for the past six years, according to the criminal complaint.
Three cans of gasoline were also found in the garage, and two more in Samoska’s car, the prosecutor said. Police said Samoska had gasoline on his clothes.
Police spent the weekend combing through the rubble of the home looking for evidence, of which only two partial walls remain. Samoska’s mother-in-law, who currently lives in Lithuania, owns the house, the prosecutor said.
The residents in both homes next door to the destroyed house were home sleeping when the explosion occurred but were not injured. There were no injuries to emergency crews.
Samoska has no prior criminal convictions and earns a living as a long-haul trucker, the prosecutor said.
The Oak Lawn man appeared in court Monday morning wearing a light blue jail uniform. He was assigned a public defender, who said that Samoska was holding up “fine.”
Samoska is being held at Cook County Jail. His next court appearance is Feb. 3.Patch editor Dan Lambert contributed to this report.
first posted January 13, 2014 at 02:22 PM
Original story -- An Oak Lawn man is facing arson charges after his home and two neighboring homes were damaged in a Saturday morning explosion and fire.
On Saturday, Jan. 11, at 5:14 a.m. emergency crews responded to an explosion and fire at 8904 S. 55th Court. By the time they arrived on the scene the home was fully engulfed in flames, the fire would ultimately render the entire home a complete loss.
The two houses on each side of the home were also damaged in the fire. No one was home at the time of the fire and there were no injuries to residents or emergency crews.
Read: Officials Questioning Resident After Fire Destroys Oak Lawn Home
Arunas Samoska, 48, was found outside of his home when police and firefighters arrived on the scene and was questioned soon after. Police say that they secured search warrants and began collecting physical evidence which was presented to the Cook County State's Attorneys Office.
Samoska has been charged with two counts of aggravated arson and one count of residential arson. Police say that he has no prior convictions.
Samoska's booking photo shows a black eye and facial injuries. Police say those injuries came as the result of an earlier incident he had with an acquaintance and that he declined police action on that incident.