A 29-year-old Minnesota man was ordered held on $50,000 cash bond Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2019, facing charges of arson, burglary and theft in connection with a pair of break-ins at two Cumberland businesses and a fire that destroyed one of them, on the night of Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 16-17, according to Barron County Circuit Court records.
The defendant is identified as Hienok Demessie, 6545 Mackenzie Ave. Northeast, Otsego, Minn.
He was identified as the driver of an allegedly stolen Toyota sport utility vehicle found crashed in a ditch the morning of Dec. 17 alongside U.S. Hwy. 63 near Turtle Lake.
According to the complaint, the arrest took place about four hours after an employee discovered a break-in at the Don Johnson Collision Center, Cumberland, and the nearby Ignition Enterprises carwash.
Keys were missing for three vehicles parked at the collision center, and the witness said she could smell smoke coming from the adjacent carwash. Law enforcement responding to the scene found a fire in an office of the carwash and Laundromat, and summoned firefighters to extinguish it.
Before the fire could be put out, it destroyed the carwash, the Laundromat and its contents. The estimated loss was $600,000, the complaint said.
Cumberland police later found a bucket of quarters missing, worth about $62, and $55 in currency and change from a petty cash drawer at the collision center.
The witness later reported seeing a Toyota SUV parked at the collision center when she arrived, but that it was later missing. Police asked county dispatchers to report the vehicle stolen.
Cumberland police and Barron County Sheriff’s deputies had been on the scene for about four hours when they got a report about “a vehicle driving erratically that went into the ditch on U.S. Hwy. 63,” The location was in Polk County, close to Turtle Lake. A Cumberland officer and a sheriff’s deputy went to the scene and found both the stolen vehicle and a man later identified as the defendant.
Later investigation indicates that sometime before the crash, the stolen vehicle was driven to the Rice Lake Walmart. Security video shows an individual, later identified as the defendant, using a coin counting machine at the store to obtain $376 in currency and 60 cents in change.