WEST PEORIA, Ill. (Tuesday, August 14, 2007) -- In the wake of a prank gone bad, three Bradley University soccer players are among four men arrested yesterday for sparking a fire that killed their roommate, BU soccer player Danny Dahlquist.
Nicholas Mentgen, 21, Ryan Johnson, 22, and David Crady, 19 -- Dahlquist's roommates -- were the Bradley players charged, along with Daniel Cox, 20, with two counts of aggravated arson and one count of possession of an explosive. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for the four men September 13 in Peoria County Court.
Dahlquist, 19, a sophomore who, as a red-shirt, practiced, but did not play games for BU last season, died early Sunday morning of smoke inhalation after a fire in his second-story bedroom at an off-campus house he shared with Mentgen, Johnson and Crady. Dahlquist, a local high school star whose both parents work at Bradley, was rushed to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria where he died less than an hour after the fire broke out, according to authorities.
Travis English, also a roommate and BU soccer player, was not charged in the tragedy in which none of the other occupants were injured.
"We are deeply moved by the compassion that we have received from our family, neighbors, and the St Mark, Notre Dame and Bradley communities," read a statement released by the Dahlquist family. "We are truly blessed. Danny was living his dream. We are proud of the person he was. All the wonderful comments have confirmed that others respected him in the same way.
"Though this unspeakable tragedy hurts us tremendously, please keep in mind that there are five families that need your prayers."
The fire is still under investigation. Prosecutors said the four men could have been charged with murder, but the lesser charges were filed because they did not intend to cause harm to Dahlquist. As it is, if convicted, each man faces six-to-30 years in prison on the aggravated arson charge, a felony that doesn't qualify for probation. Each also faces up to 30 years in jail on the explosives charge, which does include the possibility of probation.
Johnson was released from jail Monday night, while Johnson and Crady were released early Tuesday morning after each posted the $500,000 bond requested by Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons and set by Judge Kevin Galley. Cox, who attends Illinois Central College in nearby East Peoria, remained in jail, according to SI.com.
"I don't want to make five tragedies out of one tragedy, but I also think it is important that we have consequences for our actions," Lyons told the Peoria Journal Star.
Peoria County public defender Thomas Penn Jr. unsuccessfully argued for a lesser bond of $200,000, saying all had ties to the community and weren't flight risks.
An autopsy was scheduled for yesterday. Peoria County coroner Johnna Ingersoll told the Associated Press Dahlquist had alcohol in his system, but was alive when the blaze broke out.
In court, Lyons said the four charged men lit a Roman candle under Dahlquist's bedroom door after a night of drinking early Sunday. They then tried to rescue Dahlquist when they saw a fire had started, but they could not reach him through the intense heat.
"They intended for their friend to run outside in his underwear, going, 'What the hell happened?' " Lyons said. "I'm quite certain that every person I know could put themselves in the shoes of the defendants."
According to the Star, the same prank had been pulled in the house two days earlier.
Bradley was scheduled to begin its 2007 preseason training on Wednesday. The defending Missouri Valley Conference champion cancelled the annual Red-White Scrimmage, set for Saturday. The regular season opens August 31 against Lipscomb as part of a two-day tournament at home.
Both of Dahlquist's parents have worked for years at Bradley. His father Craig is the university's senior associate athletic director for compliance and finance, while his mother Patricia is a member of the school's English Department faculty and once competed in track and field for BU.
Dahlquist helped Peoria's Notre Dame to its first Illinois High School Association Class A state championship as a junior in 2004, then served as captain for the Irish who went 20-2 in his senior season. He played his club soccer with the Central Illinois Soccer Academy.
Enrolled in Bradley's advanced academic exploration program, Dahlquist was named to the athletic director's honor roll in both of his semesters at BU.