Owner of dry cleaner destroyed by blast reported home invasion. Police say there’s no evidence of one

Owner of dry cleaner destroyed by blast reported home invasion. Police say there’s no evidence of one
World-Herald News Service

Four days after his business was destroyed by a gas explosion Oct. 7, Michael McKernan called authorities to report that he had encountered assailants at his Ginger Cove home.

McKernan told Valley police that three Hispanic men forced him at gunpoint to tie himself to a pole about 1 a.m. Thursday.

Valley Police Chief Brett Smith said only three things can be corroborated from McKernan’s story: that McKernan called 911 Thursday, that the call was placed at 1:11 a.m. and that McKernan told police that he tied himself to the pole.

“Everything else is bull****,” Smith said. “Everything that we have does not add up to what he’s telling us.”

McKernan’s dry-cleaning business, Wardrobe Spa, near 168th and Harrison Streets, collapsed after an explosion and fire on Sunday, Oct. 7. The State Fire Marshal’s Office has said investigators found evidence of tampering with the natural gas system and deemed it arson. No arrests have been made.

No one was injured in the blast. The business was closed on Sundays, and no one was inside .

A man who identified himself as the owner of the business was outside the building. He told others that he was trimming bushes at the time of the explosion. He was shaken but uninjured.

After the explosion, McKernan twice reported alleged crimes.

Two days after the blast, McKernan reported damage in his unit at a rental storage facility near 300th Street and West Reichmuth Road. There was writing on a wall in black marker with letters 4 inches tall: “Spa No Mas Rebild No Optshun.”

Douglas County Chief Deputy Sheriff Tom Wheeler said nothing appeared to be missing from the unit.

“There are some inconsistencies with the scene and his statements,” Wheeler said.

The alleged home invasion was reported two days after that. McKernan told police that he was checking a ham in his smoker about 1 a.m. when he was accosted by three men. McKernan told police that he dialed 911 because he was “paranoid” about previous events. When the three men attacked him, he said, he pressed “Send.”

Smith said McKernan told officers that the men knocked the phone from McKernan’s hand during a brief struggle, then forced him to bind himself to a pole with a zip tie.

Officers found McKernan tied to the pole in a different way than he had initially described. The smoker contained a ham, but the smoker was cold to the touch and was unplugged, Smith said.

McKernan told police that the men fled from his lakefront house on a boat. Security cameras from the neighborhood showed that the “only activity on the beach was a kitty cat,” Smith said.

McKernan did not respond to a phone call Monday seeking comment. His attorney, James Schaefer, said he hasn’t reviewed the Valley police report.

“My client has informed me that he was overpowered and tied up,” Schaefer said.

As for the fire, Schaefer said that he has spoken with the fire marshal and that he and his client plan to cooperate during an interview sometime this week.

Jesse Kruse, who is listed as the general manager of Wardrobe Spa, wrote on Facebook that McKernan, his stepfather, was “in and out of that building all morning working.”

“Why would someone hang around a building that’s about to blow??” Kruse wrote. “We have been blamed for this incident since it has happened.”

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