One arrested in connection with suspicious fire
(ABC 6 News) – An Albert Lea teenager was charged Friday with aiding and abetting 1st-degree arson, after an Oct. 6 garage fire that caused nearly $13,000 in damages.
Kolton Lee Wright, 19, was arraigned in Freeborn County Court Oct. 13.
According to Albert Lea deputy police chief Darren Hanson, law enforcement does not believe Wright, arrested Wednesday, was allegedly acting alone — he is simply the first suspect charged.
ALPD is still investigating the possible involvement of a group of teenagers and young adults, Hanson added.
Court documents filed Oct. 13 name two other individuals allegedly involved in the fire. As neither has been charged, ABC 6 News has not identified them here.
Police have requested that anyone with information about the case — including the movements of people in the area of 819 Garfield Avenue Friday, Oct. 6 — to contact ALPD and Albert Lea Fire and Rescue at 507-377-5200.
According to court documents filed Oct. 13, a witness in the area Oct. 6 told police he saw 3 people run from the house to a black/burgundy SUV on Sheridan Street and Pillsbury Avenue.
The residents at the home told police they believed the fire was caused by arson, as there was no power in the house at the time of the fire.
Another witness told police she heard Wright had started the fire with lighter fluid and a piece of burning paper.
According to court documents, 27-year-old Haily Marie Merrill told police that on Oct. 6, she, Wright, and the juvenile were hanging out in the “north lot” and discussing a way to get revenge on one of the home’s residents “and burn his garage down,” at which point Wright allegedly volunteered that he had lighter fluid at his house, according to court documents.
Merrill told police that 22-year-old Kaden James Ashenfelter drove the three to the house on Garfield Avenue, Wright handed the lighter fluid to the juvenile, and the juvenile allegedly doused some blankets and cushions in the garage, then lit the whole thing on fire, according to court documents.
Wright allegedly told the same story to police, but originally said it was the juvenile’s idea to get lighter fluid and he hadn’t wanted to get involved because he was out on bail, according to court documents.
According to court records, Wright previously pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct at Albert Lea High School in February. A 5th-degree assault charge was dismissed.
When police spoke to the juvenile, he claimed Wright was the only person in the garage, and that Wright had set the fire.
According to court documents, Albert Lea police later received an email from a social worker at ALHS, who said Wright yelled that he set the garage on fire during a social group. Later, the social worker said Wright described the incident to a social worker and “was trying to blame it” on the juvenile.
Wright was arrested Oct. 11 and allegedly told police that he and the juvenile first tried to get inside the house to set the fire, kicked at the front doors, and doused the garage in lighter fluid together before Wright allegedly set the fire, according to court documents.
Wright also allegedly said he and Merrill had talked about blaming the fire on the juvenile after it happened, according to court documents.
Wright’s bail was set at $100,000 with conditions, or $200,000 with no conditions Friday.
His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 26.