A 38-year-old woman has been captured and charged with setting a fire in the downtown Marshalls store that did more than $500,000 damage and had the outlet closed for nearly four weeks.
Lewonda Jones, of Brooklyn Center, was charged last week in Hennepin County District Court with two counts of arson. Jones was tracked down in Fargo and remains held in the Cass County jail pending her return to Minnesota.
The store on Nicollet Mall between 6th and 7th streets S. was struck by fire in late the morning on July 15, when a clothing rack was set ablaze.
“An alert employee discovered the blaze and put it out,” a statement from police read. No injuries were reported.
However, flames and smoke swelled the amount of damage to more than $550,000, police added. That total does not include lost business while the store was closed.
Company spokesman Andrew Mastrangelo said the store reopened just shy of four weeks later.
In that time, Mastrangelo said, the store’s 60 or so employees were temporarily reassigned to other Marshalls locations and “have been paid continuously since the fire.”
According to the charges:
Fire personnel arrived and found the clothing rack and a pile of clothes below the rack had been burned. A store manager said he put out the flames before the fire alarm was triggered.
In-store video surveillance showed Jones taking a long grill lighter from a pocket to ignite the blaze.
Surveillance images released to the news media prompted tips to police about the woman’s identity and her previous visits to a St. Paul homeless shelter.
Another person told authorities that she spoke with Jones on the phone and learned the woman was heading to a women’s shelter in Fargo.
The charges failed to reveal a motive for the fire being set.
Jones’ criminal history in Minnesota includes convictions for malicious punishment of a child, theft by swindle and disorderly conduct.