Text messages may tell story of Pizza Ranch fire

Pizza Ranch police tapeText messages may tell a cryptic story of the fire that damaged the Jefferson Pizza Ranch early Jan. 27, and incriminate the brother of owner Rob Schultz. The document does not name the brother, but messages sent between the two tell a story.

According to an affidavit now available at the Greene County clerk of court office, on Jan. 26 at 3:27 pm the brother sent Rob a message, “Hate to ask again do you have any cash I know it didn’t work last time I will try to make sure it happens this time thanks brother if not that’s fine.”

Rob Schultz replied just two minutes later, “Ya I will pick them up and leave some cash.” The brother texted “Thanks Brother” at 6:13 pm, and on Jan 27, at 1:11 am, he texted to Rob “Go.”

Rob Schultz explained the messages, saying his brother was going through a divorce and needed money for gas because he was struggling financially.  Schultz said he had locked up the business at 9:15 pm and had arrived home at Ankeny an hour later. He said he had gone to bed and learned of the fire from a phone call from the Greene County dispatcher at 12:20 am.

The document also outlines financial difficulties. Schultz purchased the building in 2012 for $250,000, but had taken out several advances on the mortgage and owed $425,000 at the time of the fire. He had fallen behind on payments and owed $12,000 as his next mortgage payment.

Additionally, he had fallen behind on his utility bill and owed Alliant Energy nearly $3,700. He owed his food distributor nearly $11,400.

The document tells of nearly two gallons of gasoline being spilled in the dining room less than two weeks before the fire, and of the alarm system becoming non-functional the same day the gasoline was spilled.

The affidavit notes that the floor of the restaurant was saturated in gasoline, that sterno cans were on the floor in the office, and that there were several piles of charcoal in the building.

Robert Duane Schultz, 53, of Ankeny is charged with arson-first degree, insurance fraud- presenting false information, and criminal mischief – first degree. Schultz turned himself in and was released on $25,000 bond. An initial appearance has been set for April 27 at 8:30 am.

No other charges have been filed in the case.

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