OVERISEL TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A man who is paralyzed from the waist down awoke to the smell of gasoline when a neighbor going through a nasty divorce tried to set fire to his home.
Troy Kalmbaugh had been friends with his next-door neighbor William James Jankowiak II, but that changed when Jankowiak went through a nasty divorce with his wife last year.
“I gave her some money for first month’s rent and groceries, (and told her) ‘Pay me back when you can.’ They got back together and he found out, called me and said, ‘Don’t ever call, even if you fall out of your wheelchair,’” Kalmbaugh said.
Court records show that starting in November of last year, Jankowiak was stalking his estranged wife and breaking into her home. Then on Feb. 24 of this year, Jankowiak allegedly tried to burn her home down.
He then moved on to his neighbor’s house on 48th Street in Overisel Township, southeast of Holland.
Kalmbaugh was in bed when the lights went out.
“Knowing I have cameras, he pried my meter and commenced to do each of my doors,” Kalmbaugh said. “Once he pried the door open a little bit, slide the hose underneath and poured the gas in.”
The smell is what aroused him from sleep.
“When my power was first cut, I was sitting on my bed and tried to finish getting myself ready to get up and figure out what happened, I had that vivid smell of gasoline,” Kalmbaugh said. “I jumped up as quick as I could, went to the front door and caught him right there.”
Both neighbors were surprised.
“I said, ‘I busted you, Bill, you son of a b****,'” Kalmbaugh remembered. “And I had my pistol in my lap, but there’s no way I’m going to shoot someone in the back running away from me.”
The suspect ran to another part of the house and allegedly tried to use a lighter.
“So he’s trying to light it and trying and trying and trying, but could not get a spark,” Kalmbaugh said. “The fire marshal said there would not have been a fire, there would have been a pretty large explosion.”
In 2010, a car crash damaged Kalmbaugh’s spinal cord, leaving him in a wheelchair. The same year, his 19-year-old son and hunting buddy, also named Troy, died. After all that, Kalmbaugh said the attack by his neighbor felt like a special kind of violation.
“I did specifically mention how I cannot get out of the house and he passed that on to the family right down to the youngest girl,” Kalmbaugh said. “He definitely knew what he was doing as far as trapping me in the house.”
Jankowiak, 41, was charged with arson, home invasion and attempted murder charges.
Kalmbaugh has surveillance cameras all around his home.
“It seems through agencies or any help I get, I’d end up missing something and it ended up being quite enough for putting the cameras up. Thank God I did,” Kalmbaugh said.
The videos show Jankowiak coming to the house and then running away after a door was opened.
“The same height, the same person, it’s a perfect, perfect match in many ways that we got evidence from,” Kalmbaugh said.
The Allegan County Prosecutor’s Office used the videos to get Jankowiak to take a plea agreement. On Wednesday, Jankowiak pleaded guilty to arson and home invasion. He did not plead guilty to the attempted murder charge, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Jankowiak faces a maximum of 22 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 21.
“I don’t think he’s not fit to be walking around early parole or anything, that’s just not long enough,” Kalmbaugh said.
Allegan County Prosecutor Roberts Kengas said the plea deal called for the defendant to be sentenced as a repeat offender, which increases the maximum sentence by 50 percent. He said proving intent in a murder charge is always tricky and that this agreement means many years in prison.
The confessed arsonist will remain in jail until his sentencing.