Centerville family recalls the home invasion, arson attack
CENTERVILLE, Utah — A living nightmare. That’s how a Centerville couple describes the moments a man randomly burst into their home last Thursday, attacking them, and then setting the home on fire.
“All of a sudden, this guy, this individual, comes through the door with the gas can and spreads gas all over the floor and on me and said ‘I want your money or I’m going to burn your house down,’ and I said we have no money,” recalled Clarence Newman.
73-year-old Clarence Newman and his 68-year-old wife Bethany Schmucker were home last Thursday when the attack unfolded.
Clarence recalls watching Tony Finau playing in the U.S. Open on television, while Schmucker was in the couple’s front office. They say the 37-year-old suspect entered the home through the open garage door.
“I was in the office, and he said ‘hey,’ and I saw the gas can. I got up from my chair, and I said, ‘what are you doing in here? You need to get out!’ Then he said, ‘I’m just going to burn this house up,’ and I said ‘no, you need to get out. Take that gas can and get out of here. You don’t have any business here!’” Schmucker said.
Schmucker said she picked up the phone to call 911 as the suspect attacked her husband. He then came back and attacked her.
“That’s where he hit my mouth and broke my teeth. And then after that, he went into the kitchen, into the deck and lit that fire.”
Schmucker said the suspect punched her in the face with such force that her head hit a wall. She later learned she suffered a brain injury and an injury to her eye.
At one point, Newman tried to fight back.
“I had my water mug, which I’ve got a new one now, but I had it in my hand, and I just hit him in the side of the head. I think it really pissed him off,” Newman said.
Injured and their home on fire, the couple focused on getting Schmucker’s 87-year-old father out of the basement.
“I was laying on the floor, and he kicked me a few times, went past me and went into the bedroom and came out. Beth was hollering to her dad downstairs ‘Mike, you got to get up,’ Newman explained. “He was in slow motion, but we finally got him out.”
By the time all three got to safety, the couple’s home was engulfed in flames. Newman became emotional as he described building the home 35 years ago.
“I started building this house, and I was building it for my kids,” he said.
“They’ve destroyed a family that now has to start over, this is our childhood,” said Kimberly Campbell, Newman’s daughter. “My dad had so much attachment to this home, we’re absolutely heartbroken.”
Clarence’s children have tried to make sense of what happened, they say the attack was random and that the suspect has no connection to anyone in the home.
“We know he wasn’t in his right frame of mind. We know despite, you know, a lot of things that are circulating that this was a complete stranger,” Campbell said.
Campbell and her siblings are focused on helping her parents heal and get back on their feet after their home, and all their belongings were destroyed in the fire.
“I know people say they have homeowner’s insurance, which they do, but it’s not going to cover everything.”
The family has created a GoFundMe* account to help Newman and Schmucker get back on their feet.
As the couple continues to heal from their injuries, they hope rumors about any family connection to the suspect will be put to rest.
They say they have never met the suspect and have no family ties to him, and this attack was completely random and possibly a crime of opportunity because their garage door was open.
“I’ve never seen this before in my life. I have no idea who he is affiliated with. There have been rumors going around the neighborhood, which I really don’t appreciate, that he might have been a friend of somebody that was living at the house and that it’s just not true,” Newman said.
The suspect is still in the hospital, no formal charges have been filed yet.
“And there’s no doubt in my mind he was possessed, whether it was drugs or the devil or whatever, that I feel bad for that because I don’t think if he was in his right mind, this would have happened.”
*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.
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