Three years after a house exploded in a Montgomery, Minnesota, neighborhood, the married couple who owned it are facing prison time.
The couple, who live in Lakeville, were charged Friday with multiple counts of insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit arson.
Court documents say Christopher and Isabella Hale, 32 and 29 years old respectively, forged documents to take out an insurance policy on the home — located on the 100 block of Third Street SW — and then plotted to collect on that policy by blowing up the home.
The house, which was vacant at the time, was "completely destroyed" by fire on July 17, 2018. Fire investigators subsequently found evidence of a gas can as well as a "grill style butane lighter" in the rubble.
Police also had help from a pair of witnesses: two of the Hales' tenants at another property.
According to the charges, the two revealed to investigators that Christopher Hale had told them he "intended on burning the property" on Third Street SW, and that he'd "prepped the house for a fire by cutting holes in the floor and walls to help spread the fire."
One of the witnesses provided investigators with photographic evidence of that latter detail, while the other told them Mr. Hale had threatened to "shoot" him if he told anyone about the scheme.
Per the documents, Hale also arranged to have wooden pallets stacked in the basement of the house to "to increase the fire load."
One witness said he told Hale it was a "stupid idea and someone is going to get hurt," and that they wanted "nothing to do with the Hales and their plan."
There was also a complex scheme to defraud the insurance company, the charges indicate.
Christopher Hale inquired with his insurance agent multiple times about how much he'd be paid "if the house were to burn down," the documents say. He and his wife are also accused of forging a signature in order to take out a policy on the property, and then submitting a counterfeit invoice for a roof repair on the house — an upgrade the insurance company had demanded.
Investigators followed up on that invoice by checking with the company that had allegedly issued it. The owner of that company said that while he hadn't worked with the couple since 2016, and that "he did not generate that invoice and never received any money from the Hales."
A third person seems to have been involved as well. The charges say that, around the time of the explosion, an associate of the couple suffered injuries consistent with igniting gasoline.
That person does not appear to have been charged yet; BringMeTheNews typically does not name suspects until they've been charged with a crime.
The Hales are each facing decades in prison. They're both charged with multiple counts of insurance fraud, each of which carries a possible sentence of 20 years.
The other charge, conspiracy to commit first-degree arson, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Per KSTP, "Hale submitted a claim to State Farm for about $360,000" following the fire.
The charges were filed by summons, and it's not clear when the Hales will make their first court appearance.