Wausau arson suspect pleads not guilty, will undergo competency exam

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- The man accused of burning down a Wausau laundromat and flower shop in April causing more than $1 million in damage has pleaded not guilty by mental disease or defect.

According to court documents Azeez Hakeem, 31, of Wausau, admitted to officers at the scene that he started the fire that destroyed Rainbow Laundry and Blossoms and Bows during the early morning hours of April 9. Both businesses were located near 2nd Ave. S and Clark Street on Wausau's west side.

Officers responded to the fire just after 3:30 a.m. The owner of Rainbow Laundry advised officers that Hakeem was a person of interest in the fire.

A short time later an officer recognized Hakeem walking around the neighborhood near the laundromat. After some questioning Hakeem admitted to the officer that he started the fire.

Hakeem said he had been working and living at the laundromat. He said he and the owner had a disagreement on April 8 and the owner terminated the relationship. Hakeem was told to take his possessions and leave. Hakeem told the officer he lit his possessions on fire because he did not know what else to do with them.

It is believed the fire was started on the south end of the building. Hakeem asked the officer why firefighters were spraying water on the north side of the building when he started the fire on the south side, the officer told him the fire had spread.

Hakeem was placed in a squad car. An officer recovered a torch lighter from his pocket. Hakeem said it was the lighter he used to start the fire.

Hakeem is being held in the Marathon County Jail on $50,000 cash bond.

He will need to be found competent before his case can head to trial.

A clerical court appearance has been scheduled for July 25.