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Former suburban firefighter charged with arson that injured aunt

Keith Kauppi | Winthrop Harbor police

A former Winthrop Harbor firefighter has been charged with trying to kill his aunt by setting her home in north suburban Winthrop Harbor on fire over the weekend, police said.

Keith Kauppi, 28, was charged with attempted murder and aggravated arson, according to Winthrop Harbor police. His bond was set at $1 million in court Thursday.

At 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Kauppi started a fire in the rented home of his aunt Kathleen Kauppi in the 1000 block of Charles Avenue in Winthrop Harbor, according to police. His aunt suffered mild-to-serious burns in the blaze.

Kauppi, a former employee of the Winthrop Harbor Fire Department, is also believed to have started a fire in December 2016, as well as a fire over the weekend in Pleasant Prairie, where his aunt was staying with her brother.

Kauppi was terminated by Chief Justin Stried on Feb. 27 after it was discovered that he was forging checks from his aunt’s bank account, police said. He continued the forgery thefts up until last week.

Police believe all three arsons were attempts by Kauppi to conceal his thefts by killing his aunt, police said. She declined to press charges in the December forgery incident.

Kauppi admitted to setting the fire on Charles Avenue, police said. The investigation into the other two fires is ongoing.

“This has been a difficult and sad case involving family members, and unfortunately up until yesterday, Kathleen Kauppi the true victim, was considered the suspect in these fires, due to an erroneous presumption, she has dementia or other mental disorders,” according to a statement from police.