The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

September 11, 2008

Neglect charges filed in house fire

Eagle Lake couple also charged with child endangerment

MANKATO — An investigation of a house fire in April has resulted in child neglect and endangerment charges being filed against a former Eagle Lake couple.

Michelle Lin Shelton, 33, and Jeremy Todd Shelton, 36, were not home at 3:45 a.m. April 28 when their former house at 149 North Agency St. caught fire. Their four children were at the house, which didn’t have heat, plumbing or electricity at the time, the criminal complaint said.

Two of the children told Eagle Lake police officer John Kopp that they woke up and saw flames coming from a dresser where a television, lamp, toaster, propane tank and propane heater were located. The house was already filled with smoke, they said.

The children also told Kopp the television and lamp had been on. They had been plugged into an extension cord running from the Shelton’s house to a neighbor’s house. The television also was connected to the neighbor’s cable system, the complaint said.

Dan Murphy, Eagle Lake’s building inspector, was called to the house later that day. He and Police Chief Phil Wills found a large amount of garbage covering the floors. The entire house was in disarray even though the fire had been contained to the upstairs bedrooms, they reported.

Murphy and Wills also found “a few hundred soda and beer cans” and about a foot of garbage covering the floor in the bedroom where the fire started.

The tub and sink in an upstairs bathroom were broken and lying on the floor. A toilet there and in a downstairs laundry room were full of waste because they couldn’t be flushed. Murphy suspected the waste was being moved from the house to two locations outside.

He also reported the house was being heated with unvented propane heaters, such as “sunflowers” that are commonly used in ice-fishing houses.

Michelle Shelton is scheduled to make her first court appearance Sept. 19 and Jeremy Shelton is scheduled to appear Sept. 22. They are charged with one count each of child neglect and child endangerment, gross misdemeanors.

The complaints listed the Sheltons’ address as a Mankato hotel, but an employee there said they have not been there since May. They could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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