Updated 12/26/2012 04:09 PM
Assessing the Damage to the Lake Road Neighborhood
Some Lake Road residents returned, for the first time, to what was left of their homes after the Christmas Eve fire. Those impacted are now stuck picking up the pieces after losing everything.
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The Lake Road neighborhood is described by residents as a quaint, close-knit community that sits between the lake and the bay.
"It's a nice neighborhood, that's why we live here," said Robert Schroeder.
Schroeder has lived here almost 16 years. For him, he sees complete devastation.
"There's not much left to pick through. It's pretty well charred."
This is the first time Schroeder is seeing his home since his neighbor phoned him on Christmas Eve, telling him his house was burning down.
"My next door neighbor at 193, he called me at 7 o clock in the morning and said our houses are burning down and they won't let anybody in because it's a crime scene and there was a death here."
"Very depressed. Saddened by not only the loss but the four firemen also."
Schroeder is one of many who live on Lake Road, that are still in disbelief.
"Seeing it in person is quite heart wrenching," said Patrick Arena.
Arena says he used to live five houses down from the last house left standing.
He moved two months ago because of his discomfort with his neighbor William Spengler.
"We knew his past and we had already made arrangements to move literally down the street a little bit farther, but not that we would knock on people's doors and say hey we had a bad dream that something like this would happen. It was one of the reasons that gave us that decision to move."
Police say Spengler, who was convicted of killing his grandmother in 1980, is responsible for setting fire to his home and a car to set a trap for firefighters. Police say he then hid in a nearby berm and started shooting at first responders as they came in.
"My sister was scared to death of him. My sister was scared to death of him," said Larry LaPlant, who lives across the bay. "Because he was an odd duck way back when – this is even before he killed his grandmother."
Spengler not only shot and killed two firefighters but his actions destroyed seven homes, and impact numerous families; families now forced to find a way to move forward.
"Obviously, it's going to be a while cleaning it up but it's a heck of a mess," Schroeder said.