PAYNESVILLE — John Sean Newport, 46, of Paynesville, was charged Thursday with second-degree murder while committing a felony, following the death of his daughter in a house fire Tuesday.
According to the criminal complaint against him, Newport allegedly caused the death of his daughter, Jamey Marie Newport, 22, of Paynesville, while allegedly committing first-degree arson at a mobile home in Paynesville.
Newport's bail was set at $1 million with conditions or $2 million without. He remains in custody in the Stearns County Jail. His next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 5.
According to the court documents, the investigation found evidence that John Newport had been in an argument with Jamey Newport around the time of the fire. There was also a Facebook post in which John Newport allegedly said he intended to burn down the mobile home, documents said.
The Paynesville Police Department was called around 6:52 p.m. Tuesday to the mobile home at the 400 block of Minnie Street in Paynesville following a call from Jamey Newport, who stated John Newport was going to start the home on fire, documents said. While on the phone, Jamey Newport started screaming and yelling for help, saying she couldn't get out of the house.
When a Paynesville police officer arrived on scene, he observed black smoke coming from the front of the mobile home. The officer tried to enter the home from the front door, but was unable to gain access due to the thick smoke. The officer also reported hearing screaming from the back of the home, court documents said.
The officer retrieved a fire extinguisher from his squad vehicle and then tried to enter the home from the rear door, on the west side of the home. The officer continued to hear screaming coming from the home. Documents said the officer kicked open the rear door and deployed the fire extinguisher, hoping to reduce the flames.
As the officer tried to enter the structure, the home became engulfed in flames, documents said. The heat and smoke from the fire became overwhelming and the officer had to retreat back to the front of the house. It was there the officer came across John Newport who had allegedly broken a window and was yelling at his daughter through the window, court documents said. John Newport also allegedly tried to enter the home through the front door, retreated and then tried to enter through the window.
John Newport was restrained by the police officer. Documents said John Newport was covered in soot and had blood on his hands and arms. He was transported to St. Cloud Hospital for treatment of potential injuries and then taken to the Stearns County Jail.
When the Paynesville Fire Department arrived, firefighters immediately started to extinguish the fire and entered the house. They removed Jamey Newport and began life-saving measures, the documents state. Jamey Newport was taken to CentraCare Hospital in Paynesville where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy by the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office said the cause of death was inhalation of products of combustion and listed the manner of death as homicide.
A deputy state fire marshal found evidence of accelerant in the home. A gas can was located inside the home near the front door and the can was believed to have still contained some accelerant, the court documents said. A lighter was also located on the ground outside the home.
The investigation is ongoing, according to a news release from the Stearns County Attorney's Office. Agencies involved include the Paynesville Police Department, Stearns County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.