A 40-year-old Sartell man is accused of starting a fire inside the house owned by his mother-in-law, who had a hoarding problem, according to a criminal complaint filed March 18 in Stearns County District Court.

Erin Michael Idzerda was charged with one felony count of first-degree arson. His first court appearance is scheduled for June 14.

According to the complaint, police responded to a report of property damage at a two-story house on the 800 block of 2½ Street N. in Sartell on June 14, 2019.

Neighbors told police they observed smoke damage through the windows; one neighbor said that four days earlier they smelled a foul smell of "burning paint and plastic" but did not know the origin.

A fire marshal found soot throughout the house, as well as items stacked and scattered on furniture and floors "leaving only a small walking path up the stairs and throughout the house," the complaint states.

The heaviest damage was in the basement, where investigators found a charred pile of combustibles including an artificial Christmas tree and box of decorations. The fire marshal determined the pile of combustibles was "intentionally set on fire by using an open flame device, matches or cigarette lighter," the complaint states.

Police learned Idzerda's mother-in-law had not been living in the home because of health issues and Idzerda periodically stopped by the house to check on it while she was gone. The woman was hospitalized in mid-May 2019 and died in June 2019.

Idzerda told investigators the hoarding problem was a "big stressor for the family" and "that if we couldn't sell the house, we'd have to, I'd have to get another job and we'd have to pay for it."

Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299

Twitter: @bergjenny