Downers Grove man who set own house on fire not guilty by reason of insanity

  • Robert Clauser

    Robert Clauser

Updated 7/7/2020 7:21 PM

A Downers Grove man who set his own house on fire in December has been found not guilty of arson by reason of insanity.

Judge Jeffrey MacKay made the ruling at a stipulated bench trial June 29, in which both sides agreed to the facts of the case. He also ordered that Robert Clauser, 53, of the 1700 block of Virginia Street, be sent to a state hospital for evaluation of his current mental health. He could be hospitalized until June 2023, according to DuPage County court records.


A court-appointed psychiatrist who evaluated Clauser this year testified Clauser had schizophrenia.

Downers Grove authorities were called to a fire at his house the morning of Dec. 20, 2019. It was engulfed in flames; a garage and a shed were also on fire. Firefighters discovered cans of gasoline had been placed around the interior of the house, and a propane-gas tank was propped against the inside of the front door.

Downers Grove schools were placed on a soft lockdown while police searched for Clauser that day.

According to a court document filed by prosecutors, Clauser's sister had called police Dec. 11 saying he was suicidal, that there were two propane tanks in the house, and that Clauser had said he didn't care if he blew up the house or a neighbor's house.

On Dec. 22, Clauser walked into a hospital in Naperville and was transferred to a psychiatric hospital, the document states. He spoke to police Jan. 3 and 6, according to the document.

The document said Clauser "rambled" to police about several topics, speaking of a Las Vegas shooting, that the adult children of his late wife were with the FBI, and that the stepchildren were trying to take the house away from him. He said police were called on his wedding night, that he was questioned by police after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack in the United States, and that police subsequently avoided him because of a presidential election in Wisconsin and a sledgehammer massacre at a country music festival.

Clauser's wife died in December 2017.

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