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Charges: Young mom found dead after house fire was tied up, strangled

A 23-year-old man has been charged with murder.
Ellingson Pulczinski

The woman found dead at a house in Thief River Falls on Wednesday had been bound, strangled, and set on fire.

That's according to a criminal complaint filed against her alleged killer, Devon Pulczinski, 23, who has been charged with second-degree murder and first-degree arson following the fire in the upper apartment of the duplex at 307 1⁄2 Arnold Avenue South.

The victim, identified as 23-year-old Alexandra Jo Ellingson, was found with her hands and feet bound, her head covered in fabric, and with electrical cord around her neck.

A medical examiner determined that she had died from asphyxiation.

A terry cloth was also found on the small of her back, which tested positive for ignitable chemicals. Investigators found that the apartment fire had been started in two locations: one a pile of furniture in the living room, and the other "centered around and on top of the body." A gas can was found in the driveway.

Ellingson is survived by her young son, her fiance, her parents and four siblings, according to her obituary.

"She had a wonderful smile, a huge heart, was feisty, spunky, funny, was a Tom Boy and loved snuggling and giving hugs," it said.

On Wednesday, she had been dropped off at the house by her grandmother to visit Pulczinski. Her grandmother ran an errand and returned at 4:30 p.m., texting her granddaughter that she was outside, and receiving a reply of "Kk."

She didn't hear anything more from Ellingson, who wasn't answering her phone, and about an hour later she saw smoke coming out of the home.

Pulczinski was the renter of the apartment, and he was found about 4 hours after the fire. 

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A man that was aware police wanted to question Pulczinski said that Pulczinski had asked him for a ride, saying he "seemed desperate and was trying to find a ride to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area."

The man offered to pick him up, but told police about their location, with officers arriving a short time later with guns drawn.

As he was being arrested, Pulczinski allegedly said: "They had nothing to do with it. It was all me."

The apartment where the alleged murder happened had been under surveillance by police, which had raided it on Mar. 22, seizing drugs and arresting three people.

One of those arrested, James Shaugabay, 27, had been texting with Pulcinski prior to the fire, with Pulczinski allegedly saying in one text: "Ima come back I’m gonna get u out somehow but after today they are gonna be looking for me so I gotta hide for a bit."

The motives for his alleged murder of Ellingson have not been made clear.

Police also found a .22-caliber lever action rifle in Pulczinski's pickup, along with a bag containing 16 swords, several dozen knives and hatches, and a rifle scope.

Pulczinski is being held on a $1 million dollar bail and will next be held in court on Apr. 8.

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