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Arson charges dropped against former Dickinson principal

DICKINSON, N.D. – Felony arson charges against former Trinity High School Principal Thomas Sander were dropped Monday.

Southwest District Judge William Herauf signed off on the state’s motion to dismiss charges of arson and endangerment by fire against Sander. The state had alleged that Sander started the March 3 fire that caused up to $20 million in damage and displaced students for the remainder of the school year.

Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning filed the motion Thursday, saying in an interview that there was “insufficient evidence to go forward with reasonable expectation of convictions” after much of Sander’s confession was ruled inadmissible in court on July 1.

Sander’s defense effectively argued that Dickinson Police detectives Kylan Klauzer and Terry Oestreich had not properly read Sander his Miranda rights during their interrogation March 4 and 5. Herauf ruled to suppress statements Sander made after the first 1 hour, 55 minutes and 22 seconds of the interview.

Sander’s defense lawyer Lloyd Suhr confirmed Herauf’s decision Monday afternoon.

“As far as this prosecution, it’s done,” Suhr said.

All future hearings, including a pre-trial hearing regarding evidence the defense said it did not receive from the state, and a July 23 felony trial, have been cancelled.

The state could still bring a new criminal case against Sander if new evidence surfaces within the three-year statute of limitations. No other suspects have been named in the case.

Henning did not return calls seeking comment for this story.