A Thief River Falls woman has been charged in Pennington County District Court after she allegedly started her bedroom on fire at a Thief River Falls duplex during the early morning hours of Tuesday, Aug. 16.
The other side of the duplex was occupied by at least four people at the time of the fire.
All occupants were able to safely escape.
Meranda Kae Lindgren, 33, has been charged with first-degree arson. She was arrested Monday, Aug. 22. Lindgren has denied starting the fire. Lindgren lived on the side of the duplex where the fire originated. She lived there with at least three children and her boyfriend.
Lindgren wasn’t home when the fire was reported.
The duplex is owned by the couple who live on the other side of the home. They were home at the time.
At least two other people were there as well.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office investigated, finding the fire originated in Lindgren’s master bedroom. It was believed the fire began “either on the floor, on the bed or both in between the bed and the closet.” The fire investigator determined the fire was intentionally set.
She had received a positive hit for accelerants at that location, but she wasn’t sure if it was a false positive. She told law enforcement that flooring adhesives may provide false positives.
The fire investigator obtained samples from the home, but she said it may be as long as six months before she would have the results of the test.
The fire investigator confiscated an accelerant. It was unclear from the complaint whether Lindgren’s hands were swabbed for an accelerant.
Law enforcement linked Lindgren to the fire after reviewing text messages and surveillance video.
Police had been called to Lindgren’s apartment about two hours earlier after a domestic disturbance involving Lindgren and her boyfriend.
At about 1:24 a.m. on Aug. 16, Pennington County dispatch received a 911 call about the fire at 524 Riverside Ave. S. Someone was staying at a friend’s home on the other side of the duplex, according to the complaint.
She heard two loud bangs, leading her to ask her friend if the friend’s parents caused the loud noises. Once she learned that they hadn’t caused the noises, she went outside, saw smoke coming from the duplex, told everyone to get outside, and called 911.
Upon the officer’s arrival, smoke was rising from the house and people were outside the home. Smoke was rolling out an open front door. An officer believed people, including two of Lindgren’s children, were still inside the home.
A deputy used a baton to break a sliding glass door, and the officer entered the home since he believed they were sitting on a couch.
The officer later learned the two children, including a 3-year-old unclothed from the waist down, were down the street.
About two hours earlier, police were dispatched to the same duplex for a possible domestic disturbance. Lindgren reported she had been involved in a domestic disturbance with her boyfriend, who had left the home.
Police observed a cut on Lindgren’s leg. She said the cut resulted from her boyfriend grabbing her and throwing her onto the floor. Lindgren also suffered multiple cuts to her leg and ankle.
She wouldn’t fully answer when asked if her boyfriend had punched her. Lindgren could be seen on surveillance video at Northdale Main talking with an employee around 1:22 a.m. Aug. 16, a few minutes before the fire was reported.
The employee, who could be seen hugging Lindgren in the video, allegedly said Lindgren told her that the boyfriend did something to Lindgren. Lindgren told her that the man took the keys to their car and was out with another woman. Lindgren informed the woman that she was going to jail that night because she planned to assault the other woman.
The employee tried to call someone to provide a ride for Lindgren and the kids. Soon, she observed Lindgren and the kids walking north away from the convenience store, which is kitty-corner to the Justice Center. Once the employee and Lindgren saw two law enforcement officers driving past the convenience store, including one in emergency mode, Lindgren began walking in the opposite direction toward her home. She also waved at one of the squad vehicles.
The employee said Lindgren continuously informed the kids to walk. Surveillance video confirmed the direction of Lindgren’s travel. The employee believed that no one had arrived to drive Lindgren and the kids elsewhere.
The employee believed Lindgren knew where law enforcement was going and why they were driving there. The employee didn’t know where the law enforcement was going. With Lindgren’s permission shortly after the fire, an officer reviewed surveillance footage from inside Lindgren’s apartment. He observed someone running out the front door of the apartment at 1:16 a.m. Aug. 16.
The complaint indicated that it appeared to be someone wearing a white shirt, but only a portion of an arm was visible. A couple of minutes earlier, Lindgren could be seen outside the front door.
The complaint doesn’t indicate whether Lindgren was wearing a white shirt in the video. Law enforcement has since obtained a search warrant for the camera card containing the surveillance footage at Lindgren’s home.
Later, she was questioned about placing her kids on a front step and walking back into the home. Lindgren allegedly said she went inside to get her purse.
Law enforcement spoke with the mom of Lindgren’s boyfriend. She said Lindgren called her at about 2:08 a.m. Aug. 16 to inform her about the fire. Lindgren said her boyfriend wasn’t there. Lindgren told the other woman that she and the children had walked to the convenience store around 10 p.m. and the house was on fire when they returned.
The mom also spoke with her son, who had told her that he had locked himself in a shed on his mom’s property following a fight with Lindgren hours before the fire. He told her that the couple had fought on his mom’s property. She said her son told her that Lindgren threatened to burn down the shed if he didn’t exit the building.
The morning after the duplex fire, the boyfriend spoke with officers regarding the fire. He said the couple argued at his mom’s home the evening of Aug. 15 after both had been consuming alcohol.
The man said they had also been smoking methamphetamine. The boyfriend told law enforcement he locked himself in a shed on his mom’s property after the couple argued and Lindgren threw a phone against a garage. He exited the shed after allegedly hearing Lindgren talking about starting the shed on fire.
He later learned that she had lit laminate flooring and door frame on fire. The man said Lindgren was upset regarding a prior romantic relationship involving him and another woman.
The domestic disturbance subsided, and the couple and kids returned home. The man, who hasn’t been charged in connection with this incident as of Thursday, allegedly admitted wrestling Lindgren to the ground and pulling her hair.
He said he left the home since he had been drinking and didn’t want a probation violation on his record. He walked back to his mom’s property and spent the night in a camper owned by his mom and didn’t return home.
The man later clarified the path that he took to his mom’s home and drew a map for law enforcement.
At 11:02 p.m. on Aug. 15, someone can be seen on Skylite Apartments surveillance video walking the route that the man said he had walked. Law enforcement was able to obtain and execute search warrants for Lindgren’s phone, the man’s phone, and the camera card of a surveillance camera.
Lindgren was arrested Monday, Aug. 22. While the officer transported Lindgren to jail, she spoke with the officer. Without being questioned, she allegedly said she remembered going to the park with her kids before they went to the convenience store the night of the fire.
Later, Lindgren provided a statement about the incident to the police investigator. She said the couple argued after she found three needles in his toolbox.
Another domestic disturbance ensued after the couple returned home. Lindgren then called law enforcement. Lindgren allegedly said her boyfriend choked her and said he was going to kill her. She said her boyfriend had smoked meth.
When asked if she had also smoked meth, Lindgren allegedly said she didn’t know or didn’t remember much about that evening.
The day after Lindgren was arrested, she again told the police investigator that she didn’t start the fire.