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Competency evaluation ordered for Granite Falls, Minnesota, apartment resident charged with arson

The 57-year-old woman charged with arson for allegedly setting fires in the six-story apartment building in Granite Falls where she resides will be evaluated for competency to proceed in the criminal case. Her most recent appearance was Monday in Yellow Medicine County District Court for a settlement conference. District Judge Keith Helgeson on Monday ordered a competency evaluation.

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GRANITE FALLS — The court has ordered a competency evaluation for the 57-year-old woman charged with setting fires in her Granite Falls apartment building.

Brenda Lynn Stang, a resident of the Henry Hill Apartments in Granite Falls, was charged in September in Yellow Medicine County District Court with four felony counts of arson in the first degree and one count of tampering with a fire system in connection with a series of fires in the six-story apartment building.

Custody photo of Brenda Lynn Stang
Brenda Lynn Stang
Contributed / Yellow Medicine County Jail

Her most recent court appearance was Monday for a settlement conference. According to the Minnesota Trial Court website, District Judge Keith Helgeson on Monday ordered a competency evaluation.

Police and fire crews responded on four separate dates in July to fires reported on the first floor of the Henry Hill Apartments, according to a news release issued by Granite Falls Police Chief Brian Struffert in September at the time of Stang's arrest.

Four charges of arson in the first degree were filed in Yellow Medicine County District Court against a 56-year-old woman for allegedly setting fires in the six-story apartment building in Granite Falls where she resides.

These fires were all started in common areas, with one fire being started inside the only elevator. According to a criminal complaint filed against Stang, fires were reported in metal garbage containers in bathrooms, the elevator and a back stairwell on separate occasions.

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In three of the cases, tenants or others put out the fires before firefighters could respond to the scene. In the other, the fire burned itself out in a bathroom before being discovered.

The Yellow Medicine County Attorney's Office has filed a restitution request for $15,642.11 for damages and cleanup costs associated with the fires, according to court files.

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The Tribune publishes Records as part of its obligation to inform readers about the business of public institutions and to serve as a keeper of the local historical record. All items are written by Tribune staff members based on information contained in public documents from the state court system and from law enforcement agencies. It is the Tribune’s policy that this column contain a complete record. Requests for items to be withheld will not be granted.
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The Tribune publishes Records as part of its obligation to inform readers about the business of public institutions and to serve as a keeper of the local historical record. All items are written by Tribune staff members based on information contained in public documents from the state court system and from law enforcement agencies. It is the Tribune’s policy that this column contain a complete record. Requests for items to be withheld will not be granted.
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In one case on July 17, a person reported putting out a fire involving cardboard and other items on the ground behind the building. A woman’s bag was in a shopping cart next to the bin and contained Stang’s pill bottle with her name on it, according to the complaint.

She allegedly admitted to starting the fires when she went to the Granite Falls Police Department on Sept. 1 to speak with an officer. She stated she could not remember starting the trash can fire, but admitted to pulling the fire alarm between Aug. 19 and Aug. 21 “but did not know why she did it,” according to the complaint.

The Granite Falls Police Department was assisted in the arson investigation by the Granite Falls Fire Department and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Stang has been held in the Yellow Medicine County Jail since Sept. 1, according to the online custody roster, and remained there as of Tuesday morning. Judge Helgeson previously set unconditional bail at $100,000 and conditional bail at $25,000.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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