Judge sentences Grand Forks woman in meth fire
GRAND FORKS - In an emotional hearing that included tears and hugs, a judge sentenced a woman charged in connection with a fire that gutted a Grand Forks duplex to four years in prison and four years of supervised probation.
Candy Reed, 33, of East Grand Forks, had pleaded guilty to making methamphetamine and reckless endangerment.
Reed and her boyfriend, Derik Ostlund, 20, were accused of cooking and smoking meth in Roxanne Halvorson's first-floor apartment where Halvorson lived with her young children.
Hot meth pipes appear to have started the November fire, according to court records. No one was seriously injured, but nine people were left without homes, including four young adults who lived in the upstairs unit.
In court Wednesday, prosecutor Tom Falck said Reed and Ostlund took the unusual step of writing letters of apology to Halvorson's upstairs neighbors. Falck read Reed's letter into the court record.
"I truly never meant for any of this to happen, especially to innocent people," Reed wrote.
In her letter, Reed said she suffered burns on 65 percent of her body as a young child.
"I lived in the St. Paul-Ramsey burn unit for a year and a half and would never be able to do that to anyone or anything," she wrote.
Ashley Olson, 23, one of Halvorson's neighbors, told the court that she wished Reed and Ostlund would have apologized sooner.
"You don't how much emotional stress we've all gone through," she said. "I come home from work bawling because you killed my pets."
"I know what I put you through, and I wish I could take it back," Reed responded, tearfully. "Can I give you a hug?"
Olson embraced Reed, then Ostlund, who sat in the gallery.
"I can forgive you guys," Olson said. "It's just really hard to."
Reed's attorney, Steven Mottinger, asked Judge Sonja Clapp of the state District Court to consider allowing his client to attend a drug treatment program outside prison. He highlighted Reed's clean drug test record over the past four months.
"This is an individual, judge, who wants to be clean, wants to be sober," Mottinger said.
But Clapp was not willing to budge from the plea agreement which called for Reed to spend four years behind bars. Clapp emphasized that Reed and Ostlund put the lives of others at risk by fleeing the scene of the fire.
"You don't call 911. You don't warn those neighbors. They could have been killed," Clapp said. "You have no concern for anyone but yourself."
Reed is to start serving her sentence April 22.
She also faced charges of theft and possession of drug paraphernalia, but those were dropped as part of the plea deal.
Ostlund, who faces the same charges as Reed and has accepted a similar plea deal, is set to be sentenced May 27.
Halvorson is charged with being an accomplice to making meth, possession of drug paraphernalia and child endangerment. She has pleaded not guilty and has a pretrial hearing on April 23.
Falck said the three may have to pay an estimated $180,000 in restitution to Olson and her roommates who lost their belongings in the fire.