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Owner of rural Barnesville farmhouse accused of arson in October fires

Matt and Tara Andvik appear before the press Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011, to talk about their home that was set on fire the night before east of Barnesville, Minn. Forum file photo

MOORHEAD - When her 10-acre farmstead was the target of a series of alleged arsons in October, Tara Joette Andvik gave police a few ideas about suspects.

Perhaps, she told them, it was animal rights activists who threatened her online, or maybe the producer of an outdoors TV show on which she had appeared.

Authorities say evidence told a different story. The 33-year-old was charged Friday with three counts of first-degree arson in Clay County District Court, accused of setting two fires at her own home - including the Oct. 19 blaze that destroyed the structure.

An arrest warrant was issued Friday for Andvik, who not been arrested at the time this story went to print Wednesday evening.

Attempts to reach the Andviks for comment were not successful, as phone numbers listed for the family were disconnected.

Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said the warrant was sought because officers want to question Andvik - who has said in online postings she declined to take a lie detector test when requested by investigators.

Authorities don't know for sure where she has been living since the Oct. 19 fire, Bergquist said.

According to documents filed with the court:

Andvik lived at 17332 250th St. S. in Clay County with her husband, Matt, and two children. After two grass fires were reported in the area earlier in October, Tara Andvik called 911 at 2:41 a.m. Oct. 12, to report a fire on a wooden deck of her home. She stated it was likely caused by the person who started the grass fires.

About 6:25 a.m. that same morning, an officer saw a barn on the property was on fire. Moments later, it was engulfed in flames, and Tara Andvik came outside to shoot video of the fire.

A detective observed it would have been possible for Andvik to exit her bedroom through the back door, reach the barn and return without being noticed by people in the dining room area of the house, court records state.

Tara Andvik suggested to authorities that activists upset over hunting videos she posted online might be to blame for the fires. She also suggested as a suspect Keith Beam, an ex-producer with whom she had a romantic relationship that prompted both of them to receive restraining orders against each another.

According to the complaint, credit card records show Beam was not in the area at the time of the fires.

Investigators also found Tara Andvik spent a large amount of time on Facebook and was getting large amounts of attention for the fires on her property.

While Andvik was getting negative reaction online by hunting opponents, officers claim she was also known to create Facebook profiles under different names and were concerned she might be sending threats to herself, court documents state.

On Oct. 17, Andvik reported three fires in bushes adjacent to her house at a time she was home alone.

Authorities determined the fires were started with a small book of matches of a kind identical to matches found in the Andvik home. When asked to give a DNA sample to compare against DNA that might be found on the suspect matches, Tara Andvik

didn't comply.

Oct. 19 - the night before a detective was set to install cameras on their property - Andvik was home alone when she called 911 to report another porch fire.

During the call, Andvik calmly provided the dispatcher with her name and address but didn't mention the fire until asked about it. She realized during the call that the fire had spread to the house. The first officer to arrive found her outside crying on the ground.

A search in the wake of the fire found no one in the area, authorities say.