Hillman man found guilty of starting his home on fire
A 53-year-old Hillman man was found guilty of first-degree arson for setting his own residence on fire on Aug. 24, 2010. The home was in foreclosure and the fire was set in order to collect the insurance money, according to prosecutors.
Morrison County Attorney Brian Middendorf said a jury of five men and seven women reached the verdict Thursday for Randy Donald Reed after deliberating for four hours. The presiding judge, Conrad Freeberg, scheduled Reed’s sentencing date for Jan. 9, 2013.
Reed’s defense attorney was Mark Kelly of St. Paul.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Reed:
• The Pierz Fire Department received a report of a fire at 2:12 p.m. Aug. 24, 2010, on property owned by Reed and Brenda Fay Smith on Highway 25, just south of Genola. Firefighters extinguished the blaze and saved the structure. After the flames were put out it was determined that the source of the fire was in the basement. A firefighter discovered a butane torch that was left on. It appeared that an accelerant had caused the fire to spread. State Fire Marshal Mark Germain investigated and determined that the fire was arson and that there were four different ignition locations in the basement of the residence. It appeared the butane torch was used to ignite gasoline to start the fire.
• Firefighters who responded to the scene said the house was locked up when they arrived and smoke and flames were coming out of the house. Firefighters had to kick in both doors to enter the home. One firefighter said at 1:25 p.m., he drove past the house and saw a red car backed up to the house. Reed has a red car. Ten minutes later the car was gone.
• A taped statement on Sept. 6, 2010, Reed stated that he and Smith left the residence between 1-1:30 p.m. they drove away at the same time in separate vehicles. Reed said all the doors and windows were locked. He had no idea how someone would have gotten inside the residence or no idea who would have wanted to commit the arson.
• Reed admitted that everyone in the residence used methamphetamine. He also admitted that he has congestive heart failure and had a short time to live. Reed acknowledged that he and Smith were behind on their mortgage and that the mortgage company was foreclosing their home. Reed knew that the amount owed on the home was $127,000 and he had insurance coverage for $190,000. Reed said he spoke to his insurance agent a week or two prior to the fire, but they didn’t talk about his house insurance.
• Reed became upset when it was suggested that he and Smith caused the fire to collect the insurance money. Smith also was present, but she refused to give a statement to law enforcement.
• On Sept. 1, 2010, Germain spoke to Reed’s insurance agent who stated that Reed had called her the day before the fire to inquire about his insurance coverage on the house.