2nd guilty plea in Garfield Avenue garage fire

Published 11:05 am Monday, March 4, 2024

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A second person pleaded guilty Friday in Freeborn County District Court in connection to starting a garage on fire on Garfield Avenue in October.

Kolten Lee Wright, 19, of Albert Lea pleaded guilty to one count of aid and abet first-degree arson, a felony, in the case.

Albert Lea police and Albert Lea Fire Rescue were dispatched at 8:33 p.m. Oct. 6 for a reported fire in the front of a garage near Hawthorne Elementary School at 819 Garfield Ave. The structure fire was quickly contained and extinguished and did not cause damage to the home.

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According to court documents, co-defendant Haily Merrill told police she, Wright and a juvenile were hanging out in the North Broadway parking lot when the juvenile talked about getting revenge on a person who lives at the house and burning his garage down.

Wright told police Kaden James Ashenfelter, 22, had taken the group to pick up lighter fluid from Wright’s house before they drove to the house on Garfield Avenue. Ashenfelter reportedly stayed in the vehicle while the other three went into the garage, Wright said.

While they were there, Merrill was to be the lookout while Wright and the juvenile set the garage on fire. Wright noted he and the juvenile first tried to get inside the house but couldn’t get in.

The juvenile allegedly took the lighter fluid from Wright and doused the cushion with lighter fluid, before Wright allegedly doused the blankets. Wright then reportedly got his lighter out and lit a brown paper bag and put it down on the lighter fluid, and it caught fire. Wright reportedly said the juvenile ran out of the garage before he lit the fire.

Online court documents state there was no sentencing agreement for Wright’s guilty plea.

He is slated to be sentenced May 9.

The plea comes after Merrill Feb. 23 was sentenced four months in the Freeborn County jail and five years of probation after she pleaded guilty to second-degree arson in October.

Ashenfelter is slated for a jury trial March 18.