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Motion rejected in St. Croix Central arson case

A motion to suppress evidence obtained in a search warrant in connection with the St. Croix Central Elementary School arson case was denied last Wednesday.

Justin Walter Nelson, 25, Roberts, is charged with felony arson, criminal damage and burglary in connection with an April 30 fire that caused estimated $1.5 million damage to the school and equipment.

Nelson appeared from jail where he has been held on $100,000 cash bail for the July 31 proceedings. Defense attorney Daniel Chapman had filed a motion to suppress evidence derived from the execution of a search warrant on Nelson's residence.

Judge Eric J. Lundell found probable cause for the search warrant and denied the motion.

Nelson's bond was continued and a status conference was set for Aug. 30 at 2:45 p.m.

The fire was discovered about 3:45 a.m., and when the Roberts-Warren Fire Department arrived smoke and fire was visible on the roof of the school. An investigation revealed that the majority of the fire was in the principal's office and caused severe damage to the roof structure. Also a locked cabinet was broken into and controlled substances taken from the nurse's office, and cameras were taken from classrooms, the criminal complaint said.

Nelson had attended a party April 29 about a block from the school, allegedly became angry and left the party between 2 and 3 a.m. The school was located between the party and his residence. A search warrant was conducted on Nelson's residence and officers allegedly found a stolen camera and apparent marijuana and drug paraphernalia in his room, according to the complaint.

Nelson was also charged with burglary in separate incidents in Roberts. He is accused of breaking into the USPS office on April 18 and Family Hair Studio between March 29 and April 4.

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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