Mel’s fire started to settle drug debt

Two Kitchener men will be going to jail for their roles in the Campus Court fire of April 2010, which caused $4.5 million in damage and destroyed several businesses in the University Avenue plaza.

Last Thursday, 26-year-old Daniel Campbell and 32-year-old William Schneider pleaded guilty to a number of charges that came out of the fire, including arson. Schneider was sentenced to eight years in prison, Campbell received seven.
While two of the men responsible for the devastating blaze may have been caught, it offers little solace to the business owners who were affected by the fire.

“I’ve been doing this for about 22-23 years here in town and it’s just been very hard work and to have that basically go up in smoke in one night, it’s heartbreaking,” said Benny Afrouzi, who was the owner of University Vision Centre, which was lost in the fire.

“[Campbell and Schneider] have seven or eight years in jail, but they’ll probably be out in three or four years. The sentence that [the business owners affected] have received from this whole event is going to be with us for life. We’re paying the price, [the culprits are] not paying the price.”

Along with University Vision Centre, the fire also claimed Tabu Nightclub, candy store Sugar Mountain and local favourite, Mel’s Diner.

However, Campbell and Schneider only meant for the blaze to destroy Tabu when they threw molotov cocktails through the nightclub’s windows. According to an agreed statement of facts, they were hired to eliminate the competition Tabu created when it opened in 2009 by Brent Campbell, the owner of Titanium Nightclub — formerly The Vault — in Uptown Waterloo.

Brent Campbell (who is not related to Daniel) was arrested in June, two months after Schneider, Daniel Campbell and Lyntje Zinger, Daniel Campbell’s pregnant girlfriend. Brent Campbell and Zinger still face charges.

“Knowing what the motivation was, it just makes me really, really angry,” said Afrouzi. “That someone with such an ill motivation would do such a horrible thing and not think about the consequences or the people that would be hurt, it’s really difficult.”

According to the Waterloo Region Record, the court was told that Brent Campbell hired Daniel Campbell, who worked as a bouncer at Titanium, to eliminate Tabu after he ran up a debt of $19,000 with the bar owner, to fuel his cocaine addiction. Schneider, another cocaine addict was recruited later for $1,000, while Zinger reportedly drove the pair to and from the plaza on the night of the fire, knowing what they were planning.

Daniel Campbell and Schneider were also charged with committing a home invasion, along with an unidentified male in Kitchener in January.

The area of Campus Court that was destroyed by the fire remains vacant as none of the affected businesses have been able to return to their previous locations. Afrouzi has moved his business to King Street, opening Campus Eyes earlier this year.

“It’s been extremely difficult,” he said. “Now, we’re really just trying our best to get back on our feet because nothing will change if you’re not moving forward.”
According to the Record, Daniel Campbell wrote a letter of apology, which his lawyer Sean Safa read in court.

In the letter, Daniel Campbell claims to have found God while in custody.

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