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Renville man gets probation, fine, community service for fire at apartment

WILLMAR -- Michael Donovan McLaughlin, 40, of Renville, was sentenced Thursday to five years of probation, 120 days in jail and 100 hours of community service for setting fire to a woman's Renville apartment during the early morning hours of May 11.

As part of his sentence handed down by Judge Randall J. Slieter in Renville County District Court, McLaughlin was also ordered to complete chemical use treatment. Restitution was reserved in the case.

As part of a plea agreement, McLaughlin pleaded to a second-de-gree arson charge and two first-degree charges for burglary and property damage were dismissed.

According to the complaint, the fire was reported at 1:50 a.m. May 11 and the responding Renville police officer and the citizen reporting the fire evacuated eight adults and five children from the other apartments in the building.

The citizen reporting the fire told police that McLaughlin, who also lived in the building, was missing.

The State Fire Marshal began investigating the scene. The apartment manager later found McLaughlin asleep in his apartment. He was awakened and agreed to speak with investigators.

McLaughlin told the investigators that he was upset with the woman he had previously dated because she left the bar with another man.

McLaughlin said that he entered the bedroom of her apartment with a key she had given him and started a shirt on fire with a cigarette lighter.

Another woman was asleep in another bedroom in the same apartment when the fire was started.

McLaughlin said he watched though a window as the glow of the fire grew. He said he returned to attempt to put the fire out, but was unsuccessful.

The woman provided investigators with text messages from McLaughlin that included "ur apartment is on fire" received at 1:46 a.m., just four minutes before the 911 call reporting the fire.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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