The Woodbury dentist from New Richmond accused of setting fire to his neighbor's boathouse pleaded not guilty in St. Croix County Circuit Court April 10 to one charge of felony arson and two misdemeanor charges - criminal damage to property and negligent handling of burning material.
John Michael Haag, 55, was charged Feb. 4 after police allegedly followed a set of boot tracks from the scene of a fire on the east side of Bass Lake to Haag's residence roughly a half-mile away, according to a criminal complaint.
The owners of the boathouse fought the fire for nearly two-and-a-half hours before it was under control and they could call the authorities, according to the complaint, because "he was concerned the fire would spread to trees and other properties."
One of the owners first noticed the fire around 2:15 a.m. Feb. 2.
When authorities arrived on-scene shortly before 5 a.m., they were able to follow a set of tracks from the boathouse to Haag's garage and one deputy noted in their report that "the tracks angled every ten feet or so as if the suspect was turning around and checking behind him."
The boathouse owner told authorities he had plans to remove his boathouse before spring and that a neighbor told him his boathouse was brought up at the annual Bass Lake Association meeting because of its condition.
When authorities first made contact with Haag, he denied the allegations, but later admitted he started the fire and handed over the clothes he wore the night of the fire as well as the boots, which matched the pattern of the tracks leading to and from the boathouse, according to the complaint.
During initial contact with Haag at his residence, a deputy noticed two portable gas cans, the complaint states.
Haag is listed as CEO of Creekview Dental in Woodbury on its website, which states he opened the Woodbury dental practice in 1993.
The felony arson charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The original complaint stated the property owner heard from a neighbor that his boathouse was in violation of the Bass Lake Association code. He told RiverTown Multimedia he never had any conversations with his neighbors regarding the boathouse.