Democratic state Sen. Nicole Mitchell was charged with first-degree burglary on Tuesday after she allegedly broke into her stepmother's house a day earlier to take her late father's belongings.

Mitchell, a first-term senator from Woodbury, was arrested in Detroit Lakes early Monday morning. Officers responded to a burglary call around 4:45 a.m. and arrested the 49-year-old Mitchell at the scene.

Police found Mitchell in the basement of her stepmother's home "dressed in all black clothing and a black hat," according to the charges filed Tuesday. As she was being detained, she told her stepmother "something to the effect of, 'I was just trying to get a couple of my dad's things because you wouldn't talk to me anymore,'" the charges state. Her father died last year.

Officers found a flashlight near Mitchell that had with a black sock covering it. A sliding window in the basement had been opened and had a black backpack stuck in it, according to the charges.

"Officers searched the backpack and discovered two laptops, a cellphone, Mitchell's Minnesota driver's license, Mitchell's Senate identification, and miscellaneous Tupperware," the charging document states. Mitchell allegedly told an officer that both laptops were hers and that she had "just gotten into the house," and commented, "Clearly, I'm not good at this."

After an officer read Mitchell her Miranda warning, Mitchell stated, "I know I did something bad," the filing states. She told the officer her father recently passed away and her stepmother ceased all contact with the family. Mitchell wanted some of her late father's belongings, such as pictures, a flannel shirt and ashes, and said her stepmother had refused to give them to her.

Her father, Roderick Mitchell, died in March 2023 at age 72. His estate was settled in January. The senator and her stepmother were listed as the only two heirs.

Mitchell's estate valued at $172,931 was left entirely to Carol Mitchell, according to court documents filed in Becker County. Roderick Mitchell didn't have a will, but the court gave his estate to his surviving spouse.

The senator admitted to police that she left Woodbury around 1 a.m. to get to the house, and that she entered through the window where the backpack was found, the complaint states. An officer asked her what brought her to this point, and she said it was her father's ashes.

One of the items that Mitchell attempted to take was a laptop that appears to belong to her stepmother, according to the charging document: An officer "opened the laptop and pressed a button and Victim's name popped up. The laptop was not password protected. Mitchell then stated that Victim gave her the laptop 'way back when.'" The stepmother told the officer she never gave Mitchell the laptop.

Conflicting accounts

The stepmother spoke to the Associated Press on Tuesday, saying she's afraid of her stepdaughter and that she had previously sent Mitchell a miniature container with some of her husband's ashes. She did not respond to the Star Tribune's requests for comment.

Mitchell shared her own version of events in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon, suggesting her stepmother has declined "due to Alzheimer's and associated paranoia."

"Over the weekend, I learned of medical information which caused me grave concern and prompted me to check on that family member. I entered a home I have come and gone from countless times in the past 20 years, where my son even once had his own room," Mitchell wrote. "Unfortunately, I startled this close relative, exacerbating paranoia, and I was accused of stealing, which I absolutely deny."

Mitchell is charged with first-degree burglary, a felony that carries a sentence of anywhere from six months in the workhouse to 20 years in prison. As a first-time offender, Mitchell would be unlikely to get the maximum. The charge also carries a fine of up to $35,000.

The senator appeared remotely in court from the Becker County jail on Tuesday morning. She was seated in a holding room next to her attorney Bruce Ringstrom Sr. Ringstrom spoke as Mitchell sat silently in orange jail attire.

Judge Gretchen Thilmony set bail at $40,000 without conditions. She allowed Mitchell to leave without posting cash or bond provided she follow conditions, including not leaving the state except for official legislative business or to visit Cass County, N.D., where Ringstrom said she has family.

The judge also said she had signed a restraining order against Mitchell on behalf of an alleged victim identified in court as C.M. Mitchell's stepmother is Carol Mitchell.

The senator did not enter a plea; her next hearing was set for 3:30 p.m. June 10.

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Ringstrom said Mitchell was trying to make a welfare check on her stepmother.

"She had information that the alleged victim's cognitive abilities are steadily declining. The family is all aware that the alleged victim here has been demonstrating extraordinary paranoia and blocking people out," Ringstrom said.

He said Mitchell had a key to the house but could not get in to check on her stepmother "as well as try to retrieve the items that are hers." Asked why Mitchell allegedly wore all black and carried a flashlight with a sock over it, Ringstrom said, "I agree that all of those circumstances would suggest that it was her plan to go in and out without disturbing anyone."

"I believe she was trying to protect herself from being noticed. I am not going to deny that," he said. "She wanted to basically make a check and retrieve a couple of items that she felt were being wrongfully withheld from her despite earlier promises."

Political consequences?

Mitchell is a former Twin Cities meteorologist and Air Force veteran. Her arrest could cause political complications for Democrats as they head into the final month of this year's legislative session.

The DFL controls the Minnesota Senate by a one-seat margin and wouldn't be able to pass bills without bipartisan support if Mitchell isn't there to vote.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, called for Mitchell's immediate resignation on Tuesday.

"I understand the difficult situation her family is facing; however, the actions taken by Sen. Mitchell are disturbing. The complaint released by the Becker County Attorney lays out the case of a person who took extensive preparation to burglarize a family member's home," Johnson said. "This behavior is unbecoming of a member of the Legislature."

Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said in a statement Tuesday that "the allegations against Senator Mitchell are upsetting."

"The behavior alleged is far outside the character she has established in the Senate and in her distinguished career in the military. We believe in due process, and Senator Mitchell has the right to a full defense of her case in court," Murphy said. "In the coming days and weeks, Senator Mitchell must also have serious and difficult conversations with her colleagues, constituents and family."

Ringstrom said he's advised Mitchell not to resign from the Senate and added that he doubts Murphy will ask her to. He said he expects her to return to the State Capitol on Wednesday.

"I've specifically told her … don't do anything, don't make any changes to your position or your career. Just follow the advice of your Senate leader," Ringstrom said. "No matter what the facts are, she is presumed to be innocent."

Read the complaint:

(Can't see the document? Click here.)