If You’re Planning to Set Your Fiancé on Fire, Don’t Tell Your Veterinarian

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

Name: Barbara Stark

Alleged crime: First-degree reckless endangerment.

Fatal mistake: Indiscretion.

The circumstances: We’ve all wanted to kill our spouses or significant others at one point or another, usually over laundry-related transgressions. But most of us don’t actually go through with it—or, if we do, we don’t let the local veterinarian in on our fiendish plot. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, that’s where a Wisconsin woman named Barbara Stark slipped up in her bid to teach her fiancé a fiery lesson. Stark allegedly became sick of his layabout ways, and his refusal to let her wash the bedsheets. So she allegedly decided to register her unhappiness in the time-honored fashion: by pouring gasoline all over his bedroom in hopes that he would light a cigarette, catch fire, and burn.

Her plan failed for several reasons. First, Stark apparently forgot that gasoline smells terrible, and that people tend to notice when their bedrooms are covered in it. Though police arrived before any harm was done, it is likely that her fiancé would have woken up, noticed his rug smelled like fuel, and wisely decided to forgo his morning cigarette.

Second, Stark unwittingly spilled the beans when, according to police, she stopped by a local veterinary clinic and asked if she could board her cat there for the night, because she didn’t want it to get gasoline all over its paws. I am sure there are ways you can contextualize that statement so that it doesn’t sound suspicious—“I live at a Citgo station, and the pumps have gone haywire”—but Stark wasn’t quick-witted enough to do so; the veterinarians called the police, and her plot unraveled from there.

How she could have been a lot smarter: If you’re having relationship troubles, don’t immediately resort to inept murder schemes. Consult a therapist, or an advice columnist. Slate’s own Dear Prudence never gets tired of answering letters from frustrated women who are contemplating arson.

How she could have been a little smarter: Found a non-flammable way to send her man a message. For instance, she could have played the first 3rd Bass album over and over, thus implying that her fiancé was worthy of “The Gas Face.” Talk about a burn!

How she could have been a little dumber: Poured gasoline all over someone else’s bedroom, in hopes that her fiancé would one day visit that person, light a cigarette, and be consumed by flames.

How she could have been a lot dumber: “Hello, police? I’d like to advise your officers to stay away from my neighborhood tonight, because I wouldn’t want them to get gasoline all over their shoes. Have a super day!”

Ultimate Dumbness Ranking (UDR): This plot was ineptly executed, to be sure. But I still feel kind of bad for our alleged criminal. Caring for a disabled loved one can be very stressful, especially if, as Stark told police, that loved one “refuses to get out of bed.” Still, that sort of situation is best resolved through therapy and tough love, not gasoline and matches. 6 out of 10 for her.

Previous Dumb Criminals

The Guy Who Allegedly Tried to Rob a Gun Shop with a Baseball Bat
The Three Guys Who Accidentally Butt-Dialed 911 Mid-Crime
The Alleged Burglar Who Fell Asleep on a Bear Skin Mid-Burglary
The Alleged Disability Insurance Scammers Whose Frauds Got Caught on Camera
The Pimply Guy Who Stole a Bunch of Bus Transfers
The Guy Who Tried to Outrun the Cops on a Very, Very Slow-Moving Moped
The Drunk Driver Who Boasted About It on Facebook
The Guy Who Gave the Cops an Absolutely Terrible Fake Name
The Job Candidate Who Told the FBI about His Child Porn Stash