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Girlfriend charged with arson in fire that injured brothers

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A July fire at a St. Paul duplex was started by the homeowner's girlfriend, according to a criminal complaint. Two brothers who rented the second floor unit were injured in the blaze after being rescued by teens who heard cries for help.

The Ramsey County Attorney's Office charged Deanna Lee Thielbar, 46, of Pine City, with first-degree arson. The Pioneer Press reported Thielbar was charged by warrant and was not in custody as of late Wednesday afternoon.

The Star Tribune reports the suspect lived with Dennis Johnson, who owns the property, in the lower unit of the duplex on the city's West End. At 12:30 on July 21, Ricardo Martinez, 16, was with friends at a nearby home when they heard shouts coming from the second floor. Martinez ran to the burning duplex and his friend Luis Ramirez, 17, held a ladder while Martinez climbed to the second floor.

Martinez pulled 65-year-old Louis Stauch to safety, then tried to rescue his brother Richard Stauch, 67. Firefighters found Richard Stauch unconscious on the floor and safely got him out. The brothers were transported to Regions Hospital for burns and smoke inhalation.

According to the complaint, a St. Paul fire investigator found the blaze had two points of origin, which indicated arson. One area was in the first-floor bathroom, where a toilet-paper roll was burned and curtains melted. Another, which caused most of the damage, was on the back porch of the house.

A next-door neighbor told police that she heard Thielbar and Johnson arguing earlier on the evening of the fire. Around midnight, the neighbor noticed Thielbar "banging around" in the back yard, charges said. A few minutes later, the neighbor heard two explosions coming from the house.

According to the complaint, Thielbar admitted to investigators that she used a lighter to set a fire with the toilet-paper roll and then walked to the porch, "reached out and lit something on fire." She then drove away. When she returned a few minutes later, she saw fire trucks in front of the house and panicked, Thielbar told police.

Thielbar was not arrested at the time; she was admitted to a hospital after making comments about hurting herself and feeling depressed, the complaint said.

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