After a violent home invasion and fire last week that more or less destroyed an elderly couple’s Centerville home, the husband said he is determined to rebuild.
“I built that house 35 years ago and I’m not going to walk away from it,” 73-year-old Clarence Newman said on Tuesday.
On July 21, police said a 37-year-old man carrying a can of gasoline entered the home where Newman lived with his wife, 68-year-old Beth Schmucker, and her father. The man, who police believe was “under the influence of controlled substances,” said he was going to burn the house down with them inside it.
The intruder then punched Newman and Schmucker in the head and started pouring gasoline inside of the home and on Newman, according to police and a GoFundMe campaign for the couple. He then lit the gasoline on fire.
The gasoline poured onto Newman didn’t ignite, according to police, and all three residents were able to escape the fire and get to safety.
By the time police and firefighters arrived, the home was fully engulfed. Drone footage released by police shows huge flames and thick smoke pouring from the house, as firefighters douse the blaze with a hose.
Inside the burning house, police found the attacker, who told officers he was armed with a knife. Police shocked him with a stun gun and arrested him.
The attacker was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on suspicion of attempted aggravated murder, aggravated arson, aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, residential burglary, vehicle burglary (he allegedly tried to steal the couple’s car), assault on a police officer, and possession of a controlled substance, according to police.
As of Thursday afternoon, the man had not been formally charged. The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify suspects unless they have been charged with a crime.
Attack, aftermath has been ‘a living nightmare’
Newman and his wife were released from the hospital Tuesday and are now staying in a hotel in Layton. His daughter Kim Newman Campbell told The Salt Lake Tribune that they are doing OK, but “obviously, mentally and emotionally, that’s a different story.”
Her father said they are searching for somewhere they can stay for the next year, as they begin again.
Newman said his children “wouldn’t allow it” if he gave up on the site of the family’s home.
“I built that home, and it’s been their childhood home,” he said, “so we’re just going to rebuild it and make it better than before and go from there.”
The experience has been a “living nightmare,” the daughter said, adding that for her, it hasn’t sunken in that everything is gone.
Her mother and father moved into the house that eventually burned down a week after Newman Campbell was born. While her parents eventually divorced and her mother moved out of the home, the daughter said that, until the fire, her dad had lived there her entire life.
When asked about the plan to rebuild, she said, “At the end of the day, the family home is gone. And I think his way of coping with it might be wanting to just re-create it.”
Newman Campbell did emphasize that her family did not have any connection to the suspect and doesn’t believe that attack was premeditated.
She now has her own family, and chose to stay in Centerville, which she said is a tightly knit town. “Everywhere we go ... everyone just wants to make sure you’re OK.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $24,000 for the Newman family.