Man accused starting downtown St. Paul Lunds & Byerlys fire pleads guilty
The man who is accused of starting a fire that damaged the downtown St. Paul Lunds & Byerlys last year has entered a petition to plead guilty.
Timothy John Arsenal II, 37, of Wyoming, Minn., opted to plead guilty to third-degree arson — the lesser of the two charges he faced — rather than go on trial starting Friday.
His sentencing is now tentatively set for March 24, and he faces up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Firefighters were called to the store, located near Robert Street North and 10th Street East, at around 2 a.m. on March 29, 2022, after an officer on patrol saw flames that were too hot to be put out by a fire extinguisher coming from several trash bins outside.
The heat from the fire damaged light bulbs on a nearby streetlamp and significantly damaged the exterior of Lunds & Byerlys. Smoke also got into a nearby apartment building and caused extensive damage inside Lunds & Byerlys.
Court documents state that around $350,000 in merchandise had to be thrown away in the store while the total damage was estimated between $500,000 and $800,000.
Investigators reviewed surveillance video, which showed a man putting his hands into a recycling bin that flames came from a short time later. Arsenal turned up at a hospital a short time later and was wearing clothing matching the suspect seen on surveillance video. He also had a lighter on him, court documents state.
The store reopened just a few days later.