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Published January 02, 2014, 01:13 PM

Settlement reached in Valley City church fire

VALLEY CITY, N.D. — Faith Lutheran Church officials here have reached a settlement with their insurance company after a deliberately-set fire caused more than $1 million in damage to the church’s building.

By: David Luessen, Forum News Service, Jamestown Sun, Forum News Service

VALLEY CITY, N.D. — Faith Lutheran Church officials here have reached a settlement with their insurance company after a deliberately-set fire caused more than $1 million in damage to the church’s building.

Faith Lutheran Church Council President Tory Hart said the settlement from Farmers Union Insurance in Valley City, along with community donations, will cover the damage to the building.

“Our settlement is good; it’s within our policy limits,” Hart said. “I’m not going to give a dollar amount but it appears our settlement is appropriate.”

The fire was reported between 3:30 and 4 a.m. Oct. 21. The St. Paul Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the North Dakota State Fire Marshal’s office and the Valley City Fire Department concluded the fire was arson shortly afterward. The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Valley City Police Department have been assisting the ATF in the investigation that was still ongoing as of Dec. 31.

Since the fire at the church, located near downtown Valley City, the congregation of more than 800 people has been holding services in an empty building on Winter Show Road which used to house the local U.S. Department of Agriculture office.

“It’s a nice place and we’re happy to have a place to go,” Hart said. “Our options are to rebuild our church where it was or someplace else, but we’ll be looking at all our options at the end of the month at our annual meeting, and there aren’t many of them.”

Faith Lutheran was one of four churches that had been burglarized in Valley City prior to the fire. Andrew Miklas, 25, of Valley City, and Nicole Lindermann, 18, of Kathryn, were charged in connection to a burglary at Faith Lutheran.

“We are still trying to determine whether there was a burglary at the same time of the fire, but there were other burglaries on different days at that church,” said Valley City Police Chief Fred Thompson.

Thompson said the method used to start the fire has been determined but would not release further details as the investigation is still ongoing.

Barnes County State’s Attorney Lee Grossman said Lindermann faces a charge of conspiracy to commit burglary, and Miklas has been charged with burglary and theft. All three crimes are Class C felonies with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Lindermann made her first court appearance on Oct. 31 and Miklas made his on Dec. 13. Both have since been charged in other counties, according to Barnes County Assistant State’s Attorney Carl Martineck,

In their initial court appearances, bail for Lindermann was set at $4,000 and $5,000 for Miklas.

“Because they are felonies, they have to set up a preliminary hearing, so no pleas were entered. They were just given their rights, the judge explained the charges, penalties and set bail,” Grossman said.

Arson is a Class B felony with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. So far, Grossman has not seen any evidence linking the two burglary suspects to the fire.

“I’ve been in contact with the agent from BCI, but we haven’t had a meeting yet with the ATF agent,” Grossman said.

The ATF has offered a $5,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to a conviction in the case. Informants can remain anonymous and reach the ATF’s Bismarck office at 701-328-9893, the NDBCI at 701-845-5556 or the VCPD at 701-845-3110.

Donations can still be made to Faith Lutheran Church by calling Bank Forward at 701-845-1220 and Dakotah Bank at 701-845-2712.

“We’re going to be rebuilding our church and doing the best job with the resources that we have available,” Hart said.

Sun reporter David Luessen can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at dluessen@jamestownsun.com

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