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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Ex-principal's lawyers: Police ignored confession in Dickinson school arson

  • Attorneys for a former Dickinson principal accused of setting fire to his high school say police ignored a confession from a student who allegedly confessed to starting the March blaze.
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  • Attorneys for a former Dickinson principal accused of setting fire to his high school say police ignored a confession from a student who allegedly confessed to starting the March blaze.
     
    The Bismarck Tribune reported that lawyers for Thomas Sander submitted a response this week to a brief that prosecutors filed last week. Sander, 30, has pleaded not guilty to arson and endangerment by fire, both Class B felonies.
     
    In the court documents, defense attorneys say Dickinson police received an anonymous letter from a Trinity High School student, who confessed to the fire and proclaimed Sander's innocence.
     
    The letter allegedly gave the combination numbers to the vault in which the fire was started and described details of the blaze that were more in line with the arson investigator's findings that had not been released to the public.
     
    The attorneys say in the documents that police tracked down the student and interviewed him. They also say he allegedly had motive since a family member had recently been fired by the school.
     
    The lawyers say police dismissed the student as a suspect without investigation. They allege that one officer told a Trinity school official that investigators "did not want information about the student getting out as the community might doubt Sander's alleged involvement."
     
    Dickinson police arrested a juvenile in connection with the fire a few days after the March 3 blaze, but it's unclear whether the letter from the student and the arrest of the juvenile are related. The juvenile from Dickinson was arrested on a hindering law enforcement charge around 3 a.m. March 5. Authorities would not disclose the juvenile's identity or other information regarding the arrest.
     
    A hearing to decide on a motion to suppress some of Sander's statements from interviews with police will be held July 1. The full trial is scheduled for July 23.
     

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