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032311 shawn gawronski
Shawn Robyn Gawronski

A Lolo man accused of torching his estranged wife's beauty salon told Missoula County sheriff's detectives that he used his divorce papers to help start the fire, according to court records.

Shawn Robyn Gawronski, 33, was sitting in his truck, gun in hand, near the burning Gifted Hands salon in Frenchtown when sheriff's deputies arrived early Monday morning, according to the affidavit filed by Missoula Deputy County Attorney Patricia Bower.

"The court finds you to be a threat to both the victim and the community," Missoula County Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech said on Tuesday, in setting Gawronski's bail at $200,000, double the amount Bower requested.

Gawronski told law enforcement officers that he'd also slashed the tires on vehicles belonging to his mother- and sister-in-law and her boyfriend, the affidavit said. And Bower pointed out that Gawronski allegedly violated a protection order.

"He was not supposed to go to the place of business and he certainly was not supposed to light it on fire," Bower said.

Gawronski's brother, who was sitting in the courtroom, called out to Orzech, "I can take care of him if you'd let him out."

At that point, Orzech set the higher bail amount and ordered Gawronski to have a mental health evaluation while he's in jail.

She also ordered him not to have any contact with any of the alleged victims and witnesses in the case and told him to stay away from Frenchtown.

"You're not to drive out there," Orzech told Gawronski, who made his court appearance via video feed from the Missoula County jail.

Gawronski is charged with arson, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine, as well as misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief and violating a protection order.

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Gawronski was arrested after a long standoff near the scene of the 3:40 a.m. fire, according to the affidavit.

Deputies who searched his truck with his permission found a Browning 9mm handgun, a milk jug half-full of what appeared to be gasoline, a folding razor blade knife, a matchbook with all but two matches gone, and two pairs of gloves, both smelling of gasoline, according to the affidavit.

Inside Gifted Hands, deputies found divorce papers with the name "Shawn Gawronski" on a couch beneath a broken window, as well as several gas cans around the room.

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Gawronski waived his Miranda rights and told deputies he paid $36 at Town Pump on Mullan Road to fill up several gas cans and two milk jugs full of gasoline. He said he broke a window out of Gifted Hands and spread the gas throughout the salon, but had trouble lighting it so he used his divorce papers and some mail to get the fire started, according to the affidavit.

"He returned to his truck and watched the fire burn. ... Shawn said he did not want to hurt anyone and was just very angry at his wife," the affidavit said.

Jennifer Warner, Gawronski's estranged wife, attended Tuesday's court appearance but declined comment afterward, as did members of the man's family.

Orzech set Gawronski's next court appearance for April 6.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com or CopsAndCourts.com.

 

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