By Shereen Siewert
The Wausau man who started a fire that ripped through a west-side laundromat and flower shop was convicted this week of arson and burglary.
Azeez Aleem Hakeem, 33, pleaded guilty Aug. 3 in Marathon County Circuit Court to both felony charges. During Monday’s hearing Hakeem was additionally convicted of carrying a concealed knife, charges filed in a separate case.
Investigators say Hakeem started the April 2019 fire after an argument with the owner of Rainbow Coin Laundry, 210 Clark St., who had asked Hakeem to removed his personal property being stored at the business.
Hours after the argument ensued, between 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 Hakeem allegedly returned to the laundromat and set fire to the personal property he had been asked to remove from the business. The blaze that followed destroyed both the laundromat 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 was reduced to rubble.
Police say Hakeem, who has prior convictions for possession of methamphetamine and carrying a concealed knife, admitted he started the blaze.
Last year, Hakeen entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to the charges and a court-ordered competency exam was completed in August 2019. But during a scheduled hearing June 10, Hakeem withdrew his so-called “insanity plea” and the case moved toward a plea agreement.
Hakeem, who remains jailed on a $50,000 cash bond, will be sentenced Oct. 30. Circuit Judge Greg Huber will preside.