(Editor’s note: The following is a paid letter placed by Jacob Baars in the Aug. 26, 2008, Tomahawk Leader. It can be noted that it was not ordered by the courts. That sentencing hearing is not until November.)
Hello, my name is Jacob Baars. I’m sure everyone has heard my name throughout the past few years either on the radio or television or have read about me in the newspaper.
From November of 2005 through October of 2006 I was involved in a burglary and arson ring across Lincoln, Oneida and Langlade counties. I was also involved in a shooting that claimed the life of one horse and jeopardized the life of another. On November 7th I will be sentenced for these crimes. I would like to take the time to express to the community and especially my victims how I feel and what my thoughts are.
There are no excuses for what I have done, nor was anyone but myself at fault for my actions. At any time while committing these crimes I could have said no to the others involved. I could have walked away and ended what was happening, but I didn’t. I chose to participate in these crimes on my own free will. I claim full responsibility and am ready to accept the consequences that will result. I would like to extend my most sincere apology and sympathy to those who were victims of my selfish and most certainly violating acts.
Mr. and Mrs. Ralph, words alone will never be capable of expressing to you how I feel about what I have done to you and your family. As a pet owner myself, I often think how I would feel if someone did to me what I did to you that morning. Although I do not own horses I believe the concept itself is similar. My animals are part of my family in every way and to lose one would be heartbreaking. Whether it be an animal or a human being, it is a life and it should not have been up to me that day to end the life of Shiloh. I am sorry for all of the sadness, anger, and pain that you have had to suffer because of that, but more so I am sorry for violating your comfort, your privacy, and your trust. To know that I am the one responsible for what you have been going through over the past one and a half years is something that haunts me daily. I made a bad decision that morning, I had the choice to pull the trigger or not to. Nothing will ever be able to change what I did and I am not asking you to forgive me. What I am asking is that you please believe me when I say that I am not a bad person, I just made bad decisions. I am actually a very good person once you get to know me and if I could go back in time and change everything, I would. I wish your family well and many blessings and again from the bottom of my heart, I am very truly sorry for the loss of Shiloh because of what I did.
To all of the business owners throughout the Tomahawk area including those of the River’s Edge Bar, Zinger’s Paintball, Dog ‘N Suds, The Dog Pound, The Gin Mill, Tomahawk Cinema, and Mr. Ed’s Corral, I am very sorry for all of the destruction and loss that I caused your businesses. I am sorry for violating your comfort, privacy, security, and trust just so I could satisfy my greed and selfishness. I am not a business owner but I can imagine that it must take time and a lot of money to establish a business and also to keep it up and running. I can relate to the pride that must go along with knowing that you have a successful business that people benefit from in some way as I take pride in just knowing I did a good job and helped out even if I am not asked to at my place of employment. It also must be satisfying to know that you have worked so hard for so long for everything you have. Up until this past year I never completely understood what that felt like. Since my release on bond in May 2007 I have worked really hard and although I don’t have much, I cherish what I do have and if anyone just took that away from me because of their greed and selfish acts, it would be crushing. I understand that with a business it is different in many ways because that is your lifeline and once someone causes damage and loss as I did to it, it takes even more money to get everything back together again and the results of that can be very devastating not only financially but also emotionally. Things that took you a long time and hard work to get, I took or damaged within a matter of a few minutes. For all of that and all of the mixed emotions I have caused, I am very very sorry. I wish I would have understood the concept of working for what you have then as I do now and just like I stated above to Mr. and Mrs. Ralph, if I could go back and change everything, I would. If I could give you back everything that I took from you now I would, but I can’t and I can’t change what I did. I can just ask you to believe that I am a good person and to accept my most sincere apologies. I am very sorry for doing to you what I did.
Last but not least, I would like to apologize to all of the owners of every cabin and owners/renters of all of the storage units that were also victims of the burglary and arson ring. Every apology or sympathetic word that I express cannot return your property to you and although I do know some things can be replaced, I also realize that some can’t and that these possessions were not all just “things”. Some of them were memories of a lost loved one or a family vacation up north. Whatever the case may be I had no right to invade your lives and take that away from you. People should be able to leave their cabins and storage facilities and feel secure and know that no one is going to break into them and steal their belongings. They were not for me or anyone else to take. Also, people should be able to leave their cabins and not have to worry about them not being there next time they come back. My most sincere apology is extended to those families who lost memories and possessions in those fires that cannot be replaced, this includes the whole Stahmer family whose cabin was burnt in November of 2005. My step-father is David Stahmer, the cousin of the man who owned the cabin and although I have never met him myself, I know that the cabin had been in the family since the 1950’s and many fond memories of growing up, having good times, and also many possessions were lost in that fire. Mr. Chuck Stahmer, if you do get to read this I just want you to know that I am very sorry for the great loss and pain I have ensued upon your whole family. I realize that that will not change what is done but I am hoping you understand that if time could be turned back I would change things and take back that pain and what I did. I take responsibility for what happened that night. I held the match and I had a choice to make and I am sorry for that choice. To the Ostenson, Koppa, and Brown families, I do not know you at all but yet that did not give me any right to burn your cabins. I had heard about a member in one of the families who had died and the other members had expressed how the memories of that person up north with them in that cabin were lost. That story was especially upsetting for me because I am the one responsible for that family’s pain. I am very sorry for that and the loss of that family member. Often times when I am at work, I meet many families who are here on vacation and they are always so nice. Some of them share their stories with me about how they are here on vacation at their cabin and I always think, “was this family a victim?” There are so many nice people out there and to know that I hurt them hurts me. To know that I caused so many people and the community so much fear and sadness among other emotions is something I think about every day, and from me to everyone in the community and also again to the victims, I am very sorry and I wish you all the greatest blessings in the world.