WKEB Local News

Zarins Sentenced

Zarins Sentenced  Friday, April 19, 2024


TAYLOR COUNTY, Wis. - An Athens man has been sentenced after a meth lab explosion in Taylor County left one person dead.


Court records show Matthew Zarins was sentenced to five years in prison and five years extended supervision.


Zarins plead guilty to homicide by negligent handling of dangerous weapon/explosive, maintain drug trafficking place in Taylor County Circuit Court on Wednesday, January 31st during a plea hearing and was convicted for his role in operating a meth lab that resulted in a woman’s death.


Four other charges related to manufacturing meth were dismissed but were  considered during his sentencing hearing on Thursday, April 18. By agreeing to the terms of the plea agreement, he avoided a jury trial.


According to the criminal complaint, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, around 12:11 a.m., the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a structure fire on Clark Drive in the Town of Maplehurst.


The criminal complaint says Matthew Zarins reported his house was on fire. Zarins reported his wife was outside with him, but she had burn injuries.


Authorities learned there was no water and no electricity in Zarins house. The house was heated by burning wood. The home was burned down, more or less to the frame. The home consisted of a single-story camper style/mobile home.


According to the criminal complaint, authorities found many items consistent with manufacturing methamphetamine in and outside the property. During an interview with investigators, Zarins said he was trying to start a fire with wet wood, and they escaped out a window.


The criminal complaint says Zarins provided consent to search the camper.


According to the criminal complaint, authorities found “several items laying outside and inside the burned structure consisting of but not limited to the following: a glass mason jar lid with a plastic hose coming out of the top, a plastic bottle with a plastic hose coming out of the top, cans of Coleman fuel, multiple glass beakers, a glass beaker with what appeared to be tin foil wrapped around the top, a glass measuring cup glass mason jars, assorted glassware and vials, a glass smoking device with a hose wrapped around it consistent with smoking methamphetamine.   A fire chief advised he suspected there was drug activity at the structure.


According to court documents, special investigators tested a plastic bottle and hose laying outside on the ground. The hose tested positive for hydrochloric acid which is a necessary ingredient during the manufacturing of methamphetamine gassing process.


The criminal complaint says in an interview Zarins denied knowing anything or being involved in the manufacturing of methamphetamine. Zarins admitted to smoking methamphetamine five days prior to when he was asked by authorities.


51 year old Jennifer Johnson of Stanley died Jan. 12th, 2023 at a Madison hospital due to the injuries she suffered in the incident.  Johnson suffered burns to 85% of her body. Zarins was also treated for burns.



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