RACINE — A Racine man waived his preliminary hearing Thursday in court in the alleged strangulation death of his young wife and the fire he purportedly set to commit suicide afterward.
Joseph M. Guerrero, 36, is accused of killing his wife in a Mount Pleasant rental home just days before Christmas, then of trying to set the home — and himself — on fire, according to Racine County prosecutors and Mount Pleasant police.
Court Commissioner Alice Rudebusch accepted the waiver of Guerrero’s preliminary hearing, which is a common occurrence. A preliminary hearing is where prosecutors must prove that a felony was committed and the defendant probably committed it.
Rudebusch set his arraignment for April 18.
Guerrero, formerly of Kenosha, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, arson and mutilating a corpse in the Dec. 22 to Dec. 25 alleged strangulation and fire.
South Shore firefighters were called at about 12:32 a.m. on Christmas Day to the Mount Pleasant home, where they found the badly burned body of Bianca Vite in a chair. Vite, 21, and Guerrero were married in July in Lake County, Ill., according to Mount Pleasant police.
Guerrero is accused of fatally strangling Vite before allegedly setting the fire inside the home, at 5535 16th St. Guerrero and Vite didn’t live there, but the property owners told police they had previously rented the home to one of Guerrero’s relatives, the complaint stated.
Guerrero reportedly told investigators that he entered the house through a back window on Dec. 22. He allegedly was drinking and taking pills when an argument began between Guerrero and his wife, the complaint stated.
He said Vite scratched him in the face, so he grabbed her around the neck and threw her up against a wall, the complaint stated. He said he tried to revive her, but she didn’t wake up.
He then placed her on the recliner, covered her with a blanket and then passed out on the couch, according to the complaint. When he later awoke, he told investigators he checked on Vite, finding her hands stiff and cold.
That’s when Guerrero reportedly tried — repeatedly — to light furniture, carpeting and himself on fire before a blaze ignited, according to the complaint. But as the fire began to spread, he allegedly realized he needed to leave and went to Kenosha, the complaint stated.
Guerrero remains in the Racine County Jail on $500,000 bond.
Vite’s family left the Law Enforcement Center without comment after Thursday’s hearing.