Federal authorities have charged a northern Minnesota man with setting his longtime girlfriend’s house on fire as she slept and letting her die in the blaze.

Charles J. Jones, 49, of Ponsford, Minn., was charged Monday in federal court in Minneapolis with second-degree murder in the Dec. 30 death of Shalonda Clark, 35.

Law enforcement called to the scene found Clark, a mother of four, in her burned-out White Earth Indian Reservation home and Jones outside, with burns and his clothes singed, according to the Becker County Sheriff’s Office.

When deputies arrived in the late afternoon, Jones told them someone was missing and may still be inside the two-story wood-frame house, the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement soon after the fire.

Clark, asleep on the couch when the fire started, died from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the medical examiner.

Family members told KVLY-TV in Fargo that Clark often tried to leave over the course of their sometimes-violent 16-year relationship. Jones was father to three of her children.

“It was a violent relationship,” Kileen Weise, Clark’s mother, told the television station. “My daughter said they really loved one another. And I am having a really hard time understanding that.”

Paul Walsh