Scare at private Steamboat Springs school results in arrest

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William L. Schlingman

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Steamboat Springs Police Department officer Kiel Petkoff on Aug. 31 tells Bill Schlingman to leave a storage unit facility where Schlingman was living out of his boat.

— A scary incident at a private Steamboat Springs school Thursday morning led to the arrest of a Routt County man, who subsequently was charged with intentionally setting his home on fire in 2010.

William “Bill” L. Schlingman was arrested after Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a report of a disturbance at Heritage Christian School. The disturbance had the school’s office manager wanting to lock down the school because she thought there was going to be a shooting.

The office manager reported Schlingman entered the school, began to take off his coat and shoes and started a conversation about “free money and wolfman adventures,” according to an affidavit filed with the Routt County Court. “He then pointed his finger to his head as a shape of a gun and said, ‘This is going to be all over the news and the Internet.'”

According to the affidavit, the office manager thought Schlingman was going to pull out a gun and “this was going to be a school shooting.”

The office manager told deputies she did not confront Schlingman or ask him to leave because she was afraid of what he might do, the affidavit states.

“She kept waiting for an opportunity to place the school on lockdown,” deputies said about the office manager.

Investigator T.J. Sisto wrote in an arrest warrant that he was the first to arrive at the school and found Schlingman in the office waiting area reading a newspaper. The affidavit states they walked outside, and Schlingman incorrectly said the school was a public place and then cussed at the deputies before walking toward U.S. Highway 40. Schlingman then threw a newspaper onto U.S. 40 and walked across the highway into traffic, the affidavit states. Deputies took Schlingman into custody and arrested him on suspicion of obstructing a highway and menacing.

During the incident, Schlingman said something that wrapped up a lengthy arson investigation by the Sheriff’s Office in which Schlingman was the suspect.

According to the warrant, during Thursday’s encounter with deputies, Schlingman asked the Sheriff’s Office to “call off the dogs” about a fire that occurred at his home at 33100 Routt County Road 53 near Hayden on Aug. 8, 2010. Schlingman went on to say that he had been drinking and either dropped a cigarette or flicked some ashes that caused the fire, the warrant states. The Sheriff’s Office said that Schlingman's statement was inconsistent with what he has said in the past and that he was suspected of starting the fire, the warrant states.

The fire at his home resulted in heavy smoke and heat damage to the living room before it was put out by firefighters. Schlingman had maintained the fire must have started by a propane stove on the second floor, but investigators did not think that was the case because the fire started in the living room, according to the warrant. The insurance company also did not believe the story and determined the fire intentionally was set.

Schlingman said that he had been working on the stove and that he was the only one at the home when the fire started.

Investigators found inconsistencies in Schlingman’s story, and they also found traces of fuel that helped accelerate the fire, according to the warrant. In February, when interviewed by a Sheriff’s Office investigator, Schlingman denied starting the fire.

As recently as Aug. 31, Schlingman had been living out of his boat at a storage unit facility on the west side of Steamboat. At the request of the property owner, Schlingman was told to leave the property by Steamboat Springs police. Sgt. John McCartin said Friday that they have had other contacts with Schlingman.

According to the warrant, the former women in Schlingman’s life said he had irrational and crazy behavior. His ex-wife said shoulder surgery in 2008 led to doctors prescribing a painkiller that resulted in paranoia, irrational and impulsive behavior.

“At some point, a psychiatrist informed (the ex-wife) to remove all the guns from their home because the psychiatrist felt Schlingman was dangerous,” the warrant states.

Schlingman’s girlfriend at the time of the fire said they broke up in January 2011 because of Schlingman’s “crazy,” “angry” and “over-the-top" behavior, the warrant states.

“His line of thinking is not logical,” the warrant states.

Schlingman’s bond has been set at $10,000 related to the arson charge, and he remains in custody. He is due back in court at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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