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Willmar woman charged with seven counts of arson in downtown Willmar, commitment hearing scheduled

Linda Marie Wandersee-Callanan, 58, made her first appearance Wednesday in Kandiyohi County District Court on arson charges, after she allegedly attempted to burn the courthouse, other city and government offices and businesses on Sunday. A petition to commit her as mentally ill has also been filed.

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WILLMAR — A woman accused of attempting to start multiple fires at buildings in downtown Willmar on Jan.15 is being held on $75,000 bail.

Linda Marie Wandersee-Callanan, 58, of Willmar, made her first appearance Wednesday in Kandiyohi County District Court on seven felony charges of second-degree arson.

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Linda Marie Wandersee-Callanan
Contributed / Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office

Court records show a petition to commit Wandersee-Callanan as mentally ill was filed the same day as the criminal charges were filed.

A commitment hearing is set for Jan. 30, and a review hearing on the arson charges is scheduled for the same day.

As of Friday, Wandersee-Callanan remained in custody at the Kandiyohi County Jail.

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Wandersee-Callanan is alleged to have attempted to start fires at several buildings throughout the downtown area of Willmar including the CentraCare Lakeland Clinic, CentraCare Main Clinic, Kandiyohi County Courthouse, Willmar City Offices and a law office in the 100 block of First Street South. Callanan also allegedly targeted a dental office within the 400 block of Trott Avenue Southwest. There were no active fires or fire damage when law enforcement discovered them, according to the news release from the Willmar Police Department on Sunday.

A 58-year-old Willmar woman was arrested Sunday for allegedly attempting to set fire to several government and health care service buildings around downtown Willmar Sunday morning.

According to that news release, which did not name her at the time, Wandersee-Callanan has a history of mental illness and disputes with local government agencies and healthcare services.

According to the criminal complaint detailing the arson charges, an attorney at the law office suspected Wandersee-Callanan of placing firewood and other items propped up against the law office building, after seeing the news release about the attempted arsons. He told investigators he had represented a landlord against her.

In the law office’s dealings with Wandersee-Callanan, the lawyer noted that she had been telling her landlord “they” were poisoning her water and putting static electricity into her unit to shock her. She also accused her landlord and others of breaking into her apartment.

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Materials recovered at the scene included a bottle of water and a crockpot. The lawyer believed these were representative of Wandersee-Callanan’s claims. Officers noted that a container of power steering fluid was poured on the building and door. Firewood stacked next to the two items were also covered in oil, according to the criminal complaint.

An officer on patrol noticed the first stack of items Sunday morning outside the Willmar Fire Department building located on Second Street Southwest. The officer noted a bundle of firewood, hand warmers and lottery papers were stacked against the door and covered in oil. A burnt cigarette was also placed into the oil. The officer took pictures of the items.

Officers confirmed that a nearby gas station sells firewood of the same brand found at most of the locations.

According to the complaint, gas station employees said a woman had come in about 6:30 a.m. that morning and was acting “very weird.” She eventually bought items including firewood, oil and other miscellaneous products.

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In reviewing video footage from the store, the officer identified Wandersee-Callanan as the suspect. Surveillance footage from CentraCare — Rice Memorial Hospital also identified the vehicle she was driving, showing the vehicle drive from the southwest door of the CentraCare Willmar Lakeland Clinic through the parking lot and directly to the west door of the Willmar Fire Department.

A check of the clinic after reviewing footage from there yielded a pile of items similar to the ones found stacked against the door of the fire department.

Then, staff from the gas station notified officers that the woman who had bought the firewood earlier in the morning had just pulled into their parking lot. An officer responded and located Wandersee-Callanan sitting in her vehicle. According to the report, the vehicle matched the one he had seen in video surveillance.

Wandersee-Callanan was also wearing similar clothing to the woman the officer had observed in video from the gas station.

The officer approached Callanan’s vehicle and talked with her.

According to the complaint, Callanan said she bought firewood at the gas station earlier and that she was upset with the city of Willmar, Willmar Fire and Police. She also reported issues with the hospital and clinic in Willmar and stated that she was not admitting to the incidents that occurred earlier that day.

After speaking with Wandersee-Callanan, the officer transported her to CentraCare — Rice Memorial Hospital for a mental health evaluation. During their time with her, officers received more calls about additional stacks of items covered in oil placed outside buildings.

Wandersee-Callanan was released from the hospital after staff told officers they were unable to place her anywhere. She was then arrested and transported to the Kandiyohi County Jail.

Dale Morin is a reporter with the West Central Tribune. He covers public safety and breaking news beats.

Dale can be reached at dmorin@wctrib.com or by phone 320-214-4368.
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