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Minn. woman burned down home to 'destroy a bad spirit,' charges say

Lori Jean Dahmen

A Grand Portage woman burned down her own home in an effort to “destroy a bad spirit,” according to charges filed Wednesday.

Lori Jean Dahmen, 46, was arrested Tuesday evening after she reportedly used a cigarette lighter to set fire to a bed in the house at 71 Townsite Road. Authorities reported that she was intoxicated.

Dahmen’s son, who was also home at the time, escaped without injury. The residence was considered a total loss.

Dahmen was arraigned Wednesday in State District Court on a first-degree arson charge. Sixth Judicial District Judge Michael Cuzzo set her bail at $15,000.

According to a criminal complaint:

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the Grand Portage and Hovland fire departments responded to the fire call at 4:50 p.m. Tuesday. Deputies noted that the living room and front foyer were severely damaged, indicating the fire had started in that area.

Dahmen’s son, whose identity and age were not listed, told deputies that he was in the bathroom when he came out to find a mattress on fire in the living room. A fire official who was quickly on scene reported seeing Dahmen walking down the road away from the burning house.

A deputy found Dahmen at another son’s house and took a statement, which was consistent with accounts she reportedly gave to “a number of other people who spoke to law enforcement.”

“She told the deputy that she started the bed on fire using a cigarette lighter with the intention of burning down the house to destroy a bad spirit,” the complaint said.

A preliminary breath test revealed Dahmen to have a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.18 — which is more than twice the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.

Dahmen has a relatively minor criminal record in Minnesota, with convictions including disorderly conduct, obstruction of the legal process and driving while intoxicated.

She was being held at the Cook County Jail and is due back in court on Oct. 23.

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