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Man gets more than 5 years in prison for starting Christian outreach center fire in Detroit Lakes

Gary Bogatz was found guilty of arson in connection to The Refuge blaze.

Gary Bogatz
Gary John Bogatz Jr.
Becker County Jail
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DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — A man who set fire to Christian outreach center in Detroit Lakes in 2018 has been sentenced to five years and eight months in prison.

Becker County Judge Michael Fritz handed down the 68-month prison sentence on Thursday, July 21, to Gary John Bogatz Jr., of Zimmerman, Minnesota. The 42-year-old was taken into custody after the hearing.

Bogatz was charged in July 2020 for the Sept. 22, 2018, fire at The Refuge on charges of arson and insurance fraud. Investigators alleged he broke into the building and started a fire using gasoline in the front part of The Refuge, according to a criminal complaint.

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Bogatz told investigators he was asked to start the fire, a criminal complaint said. He claimed people connected to the center told him it would close soon unless "something happened," and the building had "a lot of insurance," the complaint alleged.

The fire led to an insurance payout of more than $500,000. No one else was charged in connection to the case.

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Investigators said Bogatz ate a dessert bar and left frosting finger prints on a door handle, according to the complaint.

A jury acquitted him on the fraud charge but found him guilty of arson after a two-day trial last month.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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