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Published August 11, 2009, 12:00 AM

Flood arsonist gets seven years

Sentence double that of plea recommendation
Dena Pagel awoke to fire trucks and flashing lights on the morning of April 1 and figured the worst: The dike had failed and her family had to evacuate.

By: Dave Roepke, INFORUM

Dena Pagel awoke to fire trucks and flashing lights on the morning of April 1 and figured the worst: The dike had failed and her family had to evacuate.

In reality, their garage and another in the area just south of downtown Fargo’s Island Park were on fire, set ablaze by Michael Lee Duray. Her family didn’t have to run for it, but the building that held her husband’s workshop was burning down – causing damage she estimated as high as $100,000.

“Things cannot and will not be replaced,” Pagel said Monday in Cass County District Court.

Duray was sentenced to a seven-year prison term on the arson charges on Monday, doubling the 3½ years Assistant State’s Attorney Tristan Van de Streek recommended in a plea agreement.

Explaining his decision to lengthen the sentence, Judge John Irby of the East Central Judicial District said the crimes came at a stressful time due to the floods, just four days after the March 28 crest.

Irby also said that Duray was out on bail at the time, accused of a string of similar crimes in Grand Forks, N.D., and that it would be unlikely any of his victims would get paid back for the damage caused.

“It’ll be a gesture at the most,” Irby said of Duray’s eventual restitution.

Duray also pleaded guilty in the Grand Forks cases on two of the nine charges he originally faced. He was sentenced to two years that will be served at the same time as the seven-year term.

Restitution will be set at a later hearing, and Duray must have a psychological evaluation and a chemical dependence evaluation.

Blake Hankey, Duray’s attorney, said his client is remorseful and welcomes psychological evaluation, as he’s unsure why he sets fires. He said Duray, who lived a block down Seventh Avenue South from Pagel, even assisted sandbagging in the neighborhood before starting the garage fires.

“He wants help,” said Hankey, who asked for a three-year sentence.

The longer prison term still wasn’t what Pagel said she was hoping for in her victim’s impact statement.

She said she’d like Duray to get 30 years behind bars.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535

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