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Hodapp enters not guilty pleas, trial set on arson, property damage charges

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news Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- Chase John Hodapp, 20, of Willmar, pleaded not guilty Monday to 17 charges against him for his role in a string of alleged motor vehicle thefts, fires and property damage that culminated with setting fire to an occupied Willmar residence.

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Hodapp entered the pleas during an omnibus hearing in Kandiyohi County District Court.

According to a scheduling order also filed Monday by District Judge Michael J. Thompson, Hodapp will have a two-day jury trial starting Sept. 21 on the first-degree arson and property damage charges stemming from the May 3 house fire. Thompson ordered that trials on the remaining counts be scheduled following the resolution of the arson and property damage counts.

The remaining counts include 11 felony counts for motor vehicle theft, property damage and burglary and four misdemeanor charges of theft and property damage.

Hodapp and Andrew Charles Wyman, 17, of Willmar, are charged in connection with the alleged crime spree. Wyman's next court appearance is a July 28 adult certification hearing.

Hodapp is currently in the Kandiyohi County Jail.

Wyman is being held at Prairie Lakes Detention Center. Felony matters against 16- and 17-year-old juveniles are public.

The criminal complaints against Hodapp and Wyman were amended June 15 to add a felony property damage and misdemeanor property damage and theft charges for causing more than $11,000 in damage to the coin machine at the Spicer Super Stop and for vandalizing two vehicles while stealing gas.

Hodapp and Wyman were arrested May 3 in Waite Park. According to Willmar Police Chief David Wyffels, the men were arrested after neighbors to a gravel pit in Waite Park called law enforcement to report people operating ATVs in the pit. Officers arrived to find the defendants with a stolen pickup, trailer and ATVs. According to information from Meeker County Sheriff Jeff Norlin, the trailer and ATVs were reported stolen from the Watkins area.

According to the criminal complaint filed with the court, the crime spree began April 19 when Willmar police officers responded to a motor vehicle crash around 5:15 a.m. along 19th Avenue Southwest. The vehicle had been rigged, with the seat belt looped through the steering wheel and a board propped on the accelerator, to proceed without a driver eastbound approximately 200 yards until it crashed into a light pole and several trees. The value of the vehicle and items inside was estimated at $6,475.

On April 24, the Swift County Sheriff's Office notified the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office that a burning vehicle had been located in Swift County and that a passerby had seen two males walking away. The pickup, along with tools and hunting and camping gear, had been stolen from a rural Willmar residence overnight. The value of the pickup and other items was estimated at $8,884.

The next day, April 25, another pickup was reported missing at a rural Willmar address. The vehicle was later located in the northwest portion of the county and was burned completely.

On May 1, Willmar police received a report that a pickup was missing from a residence in the city and that the vehicle had been recovered in Renville County. The defendants allegedly told investigators that Wyman drove that vehicle because Hodapp didn't know how to drive a manual transmission and that they went to Redwood Falls to see Wyman's girlfriend. They left the vehicle in Renville County and stole another pickup, with which they were discovered when they were arrested in Waite Park.

The final day of the crime spree was May 3, when police were called around 4:30 a.m. to a home along the 1600 block of Ninth Street Southeast in Willmar. Someone had broken into the garage and dumped liquid and spray painted on a vehicle inside the garage. The liquids included transmission fluid, antifreeze, gear lube and mineral spirits. Driveway deicer had also been dumped on the vehicle.

That same morning, Willmar firefighters and police investigators were called to 1212 Ninth St. S.E. where fire had destroyed the attached garage and vehicles. The homeowners said they were alerted to the fire by smoke alarms around 3:15 a.m. and saw the flames.

The detective also noticed graffiti on a neighboring home.

Investigators questioned Hodapp and Wyman about the fire and they allegedly admitted to cutting the gas line on a van in the garage to get gas, spilling some fuel and then setting the gas on fire. Hodapp allegedly admitted to spraying the graffiti because he was bored while Wyman was cutting the gas line.

Finally, sheriff 's deputies were called around 6:15 a.m. May 3 to the Spicer Super Stop, where a coin box in the car wash had been pried open and the coins removed. Surveillance video showed the pair damaging the box and taking the coins.

The pair allegedly admitted to committing the crimes when questioned by investigators.

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