Man offers $10,000 reward after vandals burn schoolhouse

Posted by: Abigail Wood

The schoolhouse that burned to the ground the night of July 4th in Shelton, Nebraska has been around since the 1890s. It was built in a nearby town and stood there until 1996, when the town decided to tear it down. When a local man, Tom Johnson, heard this, he went to look inside…and fell in love.

"It was just something that you couldn’t buy or replace so I thought it was worth saving," Johnson said.

He bought it, and spent two years preparing to move it more than 20 miles to a spot in Shelton. From the start, he had problems with vandals, but he says the damage was minor.

"Never did I imagine someone would do this intentionally," he said.

But they did. 

Officials say the July 4th fire was arson. It took barely 30 minutes from the time rural fire departments responded until the building collapsed.

"The sheriff said: ‘yeah, I didn’t want to call you’," Johnson said, describing the phone call he got that night. "But after that I can’t even talk about it, because I become to emotional."

Johnson came to watch. It was 20 years of work, hope, and a foundation he rebuilt years ago with his grandson.
"It’s too much of a loss," he said. "I was too attached to that building."

That’s why he’s offering a reward for anyone with information that could tell him what happened.
"Until we have someone charged with this case it will haunt me and should haunt the whole community knowing that somebody like that is out there and what will they do next," he said.

Johnson’s offering a reward up to $10,000 for any tip that can help him find the person responsible for the arson. If you have information, contact the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department or Crimestoppers.