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Evidence presented in arson case

By Enterprise Staff

In an hour and a half hearing Monday, June 10, Kittson County Assistant Attorney Richard Lee questioned Andrea Bexell, a fire marshal for the state of Minnesota, regarding the case of possible arson at the Caribou Grill in Hallock.

The contested omnibus hearing took place at the request of defendant Tami DeVore, who is accused of arson and insurance fraud regarding a fire that occurred in her business, Caribou Grill, on Feb. 21.

According to court documents, DeVore’s attorney submitted a motion to suppress evidence, namely video recordings from surveillance video, claiming it was unlawfully seized. They also submitted a motion to dismiss the case, on the same basis of unlawful search and seizure.

Bexell testified that she removed the digital video recording (DVR) device immediately upon finding it when she investigated the fire on Feb. 22. She said water was dripping on it and it was covered in soot, which could have damaged the information.

In audio recordings played in court, Bexell told DeVore and co-owner Amber Kuznia she took the DVR to have recordings retrieved by Wikstrom’s in Karlstad after both DeVore and Kuznia were unable to access the video.

Bexell told both the county and defense attorneys she often takes DVRs immediately from a fire scene to minimize damage and recover video, whether the fire is deemed arson or accidental.

In cross-examination, Bexell reiterated she was worried the DVR would be damaged if not immediately removed. She also said she did not ask for consent to remove the device, but rather removed it to preserve evidence, which is regular practice. Typically, she only asks consent or seeks a warrant if it is obvious arson.

Judge Eric Schieferdecker gave the defense four weeks to write a brief and the prosecution five weeks to write a brief. The judge will review those documents and later give a decision on the motions to dismiss charges and suppress evidence.

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