Park Rapids man charged with arson in May house fire
By Sarah Smith
A Park Rapids man has been charged with two counts of arson in a fire that destroyed his home this spring.
Jeffrey Keith Hunt, 54, faces charges of First Degree and Second Degree Arson charges in the May 22 fire that destroyed his home near Rockwell Lake northeast of the city.
Firefighters were called to the home around 8 a.m. The home, which was listed for sale and believed to be unoccupied, was fully engulfed.
Dozens of firefighters converged on the property off County Road 81 that morning. Three fire departments and dozens of firefighters responded to the mutual aid call.
Hunt has seen his share of legal trouble, mostly involving a domestic dispute with a former girlfriend. He served 10 days in jail for that incident.
Hunt is scheduled for a Rule 8 court appearance on the arson charges Sept. 2, in Hubbard County District Court.
The complaint states that Hunt was located in Bemidji around 9 a.m. that morning and was aware his house was on fire before Chief Dep. Scott Parks, who spotted the smoke, called him to inform him of the blaze.
The complaint states that Hunt showed up at a mental health facility in Park Rapids between 8 and 8:30 a.m., telling the receptionist his house was on fire and that he needed his medications refilled.
Most recently Hunt had launched his own information technology business that operated out of his home.
Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne filed the charges Aug. 12.
Both First and Second Degree Arson have elements of intentional setting of a fire to destroy property. First Degree Arson carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and fines of $20,000 to $35,000. Second Degree Arson carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $20,000 upon conviction.