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Plea hearing set in Wausau laundromat arson case

in Sirens

By Shereen Siewert

A plea agreement could be in the works for a 32-year-old Wausau man facing six criminal charges in connection with a fire that decimated a west side laundromat and flower shop.

Azeez Aleem Hakeem faces felony arson charges along with six counts of bail jumping. The charges were filed Friday, April 19, 10 days after the fire was set.

Police say Hakeem intentionally set the blaze after an argument with the owner of Rainbow Coin Laundry. Hakeem, who is homeless, slept at Rainbow Coin Laundry in exchange for calling police when other homeless people loitered.

But the relationship between Hakeem and the he laundromat owner soured after Hakeem allowed another homeless person to sleep at the business, prompting the owner to ask Hakeem to remove his personal possessions from the building.

Hours later, between 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 9, Hakeem allegedly returned to the laundromat and set fire to the personal property he had been asked to remove.

The blaze that followed destroyed both the laundromat, at 210 Clark St., and the adjacent Blossoms & Bows flower shop.

Firefighters spent hours battling the blaze and remained on scene more than 24 hours after the fire started. The building has since been razed.

Police say Hakeem admitted starting the blaze and said he started the fire because he didn’t know what to do with his possessions.

In June, Hakeem entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. At that time, Circuit Judge Greg Huber ordered Hakeem to undergo a psychological evaluation to determine his competency.

A five-day jury trial to begin April 20 remains on the docket, but online court records show a plea hearing is now set for March 31.

Hakeem, who is being held on a $50,000 cash bond, has prior convictions for possession of methamphetamine and carrying a concealed knife, according to online court records.

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