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Muskego police seek James Barbian, accused of setting fire to his ex-wife’s home

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MUSKEGO -- Muskego police need your help to track down a man who now faces several criminal charges. The suspect is identified by officials as James Barbian. Police say Barbian is believed to have set fire to his ex-wife's home on Monday, May 2nd.

On Thursday, May 5th, the windows were boarded up at the Barbian family home. But yet damage from the arson fire was clearly visible. There was a sign on the property, seeking information as the investigation continues.

James Barbian

James Barbian

"Wonderful, beautiful family. Very hard-working and the kids were wonderful, nice boys," said Dalma Pallagi, a neighbor.

Police say the two teenage sons and their mother were gone Monday morning. That's when they believe Barbian came by and set the house on fire.

His ex-wife had filed for divorce in February, and according to court records she had recently been awarded residency of the property.

On Monday morning, police say Barbian sent his ex-wife a text reading: "Tell you what. You can have all the money I have. I will no longer need it."

Just minutes later, 911 calls came in for a fire at the house.

"She came and give me a hug and said, 'my dog.' I think I heard her say her dog was in there," said Mark Hildebrand, a neighbor.

Police say the family's dog and cat were found dead inside the home. Dalma Pallagi says everyone in the family had always been kind to her.

"I just heard that they were, that they had suspicion, and I don't want to believe it because he didn't seem like that kind of person who could do anything like that," said Pallagi.


The Fire Marshal has ruled that the fire was intentionally set in the ex-wife's bedroom.

Police are looking for Barbian, and anyone who may have seen him since Monday.

"Very nice people -- all of them. I don't know, I can't say anything else, just that it breaks my heart," said Pallagi.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Barbian -- and here are the charges he faces once brought into custody:

  • Arson of building without owner's consent
  • Burglary-building or dwelling
  • Mistreatment of animals/cause death (two counts)

Barbian is believed to be operating a maroon, 2005 Chevrolet Equinox with Wisconsin license 480-MUG.

Vehicle James Barbian may be driving

Vehicle James Barbian may be driving

If you have information about where to locate Barbian, you are urged to contact the Muskego Police Department.


  • Opinion8d

    If the house was in his name, I don’t believe insurance covers intentional loss. I know the story says she was award residency of the property, but I’m not sure if that legally changes the insurance. Sad situation either way. My guess is that he’ll be found dead somewhere.

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