4 women charged with arson in Gaylord warehouse fire

Associated Press

GAYLORD, Minn. -- Four women were charged with arson in a blaze that caused more than $2 million of damage to a Gaylord business where one of the women worked, according to complaints filed Monday in Sibley County District Court.

The women are accused of breaking into the business April 20 after a night at a local bar. They are Judy Winkelman, 21, of Gaylord; Angela Manteuffel, 25, of Gaylord; Nicole Raduenz, 18, of Silver Lake; and Toni Benjamin, 18, of Glencoe. The charges include first-degree arson, aiding and abetting, and third-degree burglary, the Sheriff's Department said.

The women, who were not in custody Monday, were scheduled to make their first court appearance Aug. 14.

The April 20 fire damaged a 45,000-square-foot warehouse at the Unidoor Corp., one of the city's largest employers with 60 workers. It took 13 hours and firefighters from seven towns to get the fire under control.


The complaint said Winkelman, who was working for Unidoor and was angry at the company, started the fire.

A $2,500 reward was offered for information in the case, and police received a tip in June from someone whose cousin supposedly had talked to a woman who claimed she and another woman set the fire, the complaint said. The tipster identified the women as Manteuffel and Winkelman.

The cousin told investigators the woman told her the women broke into the plant and that Winkelman sprayed lighter fluid on some wooden freight pallets to "start a small fire," the complaint said.

Winkelman's boyfriend also told authorities he heard all four women talked about damaging Unidoor.

Benjamin and Winkelman denied any involvement in the fire. Raduenz refused to give a statement and Manteuffel said she and the others went to Unidoor with the intention of causing minor damage, the complaint said.

Gaylord is about 55 miles southwest of Minneapolis.

The Unidoor fire appeared to be the first in a chain of suspicious fires in Sibley County. A fire of similar size destroyed a grain elevator in nearby Winthrop one week later. That fire was followed a week later by an attempted arson at a lumber yard in Arlington.

Sibley County Sheriff Bruce Ponath said, "There's nothing that suggests that they're related. Gaylord seems an isolated incident. In Winthrop, we never determined the cause, and Arlington was an attempted arson, but we're still following up on leads."

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