Complaint: Montello woman admits to starting house fire to kill ex-boyfriend, herself

She faces life in prison if convicted

Frances Rittman, 42, faces one count of first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of arson for the fatal house fire that killed Daniel Gilmartin last Saturday.

In the criminal complaint released Monday, investigators said Rittman admitted to starting the fire intentionally to kill herself and Gilmartin, but “after setting the fire, she changed her mind about killing herself and left.”

She told detectives that she didn’t call for help, and instead went to the Dollar General for about 45 minutes.

An autopsy revealed Gilmartin was still alive during the fire and the fire had “two non-communicating origins” on different levels of the home.

She allegedly also set a couch in Gilmartin’s garage on fire earlier in the month.

A small claims case from November 2018 shows Gilmartin filed to evict Rittman from the home. The two came to an agreement that she would move out by the end of January and the case was later dismissed.

#BREAKING: Frances Rittman admitted to starting the house fire that killed her ex-boyfriend Daniel Gilmartin last weekend. She told investigators she intended to kill herself too, but later changed her mind & left the #Montello home. #News3Now

— Amanda Quintana (@AmandaQTV) April 29, 2019

The small town is remembering Gilmartin for his kindness.

“He was a regular. He was eccentric. He was a goofball. He had the biggest heart in the world though. He was such a nice guy,” said Tammy Rousseau, the owner of Tambears, a bar in downtown Montello.

She said Gilmartin first visited the town about two years ago, and after making friends with people at the bar, he decided to move there.

“He always had a St. Christopher (medal) around his neck. If someone was having a bad day, he would take it off and give it to them and go down to the local jewelry store and buy another one,” said Rousseau.

When she heard about the fire, Rousseau said, she had a feeling Rittman had something to do with it.

“I was shocked but I immediately felt like I knew what happened. It was a volatile relationship, and many things have gone on in the last year that I felt like I knew right off the bat,” she said.

Rousseau said Gilmartin had told her, right before the fire, that he ended his relationship with Rittman.

Rousseau said that on the night Gilmartin died, Rittman had come to the bar “like she knew nothing was wrong.”

“Instead of having tears in her eyes, she spent the evening telling her side of the story, kind of making excuses for where she was, (saying) she didn’t do anything,” said Rousseau.

“It’s just sad to see something like this could happen just from a bad relationship,” she said.

Rittman had a bond hearing scheduled for Monday afternoon. She appeared from the Marquette County jail via video, and her attorney requested the hearing be moved back so she could appear in person.

If convicted, the homicide charge carries a sentence of life in prison.

Rittman appeared by video, but her attorney asked the judge to push the bond hearing to tomorrow so they could both appear in person. Her mom & family watched from the courtroom. #News3Now

— Amanda Quintana (@AmandaQTV) April 29, 2019

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