MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Authorities say a woman is dead and a man is in custody after police in Paynesville responded to a call Tuesday of someone pouring gasoline inside a mobile home and starting it on fire.
The Paynesville Police Department says officers responded to the arson call shortly before 7 p.m. at a trailer on the 400 block of Minnie Street. When officers got to the scene, the trailer was fully engulfed in flames and they learned a woman was still inside.
Crews found the woman in the trailer’s bathroom, and an ambulance took her to Paynesville Hospital, where she later died. Neighbors and friends identify the victim as Jayme Newport. Those close to her say she was very caring and loving and always wanted to make people laugh.
“I thought she was sweet, a nice girl, you know,” neighbor Judy Ramthun said.
Neighbors said she was like a mother to her sisters. She always put others problems before her own, and always knew just the right thing to say.
“I’m going to miss her calling me the lady of the home, and seeing her everyday with her smile, you know, and the talks and the hugs,” Ramthun said.
Police say a man was arrested at the scene and is being held at the Stearns County Jail pending formal second-degree murder charges.
Neighbors say the fire burned hot and fast and the people and pets inside had no chance of getting out.
“I looked out the back door and the living room window and I saw fire I told her call 911 something going on next door,” neighbor Darwin Martinson said.
Martinson says the 911 call came from inside his trailer. He watched as his neighbors home was swallowed by the fast-moving fire.
“A cop has his squad car parked over here, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and went to the back door and kicked it open. And he was going to try and get in there, but fire just shot out. He had to back up, he couldn’t go in there,” he said.
Martinson says he had to move back because of the heat coming from the fire; that’s when he says he saw his neighbor, surrounded by police.
The family had two adult cats and three kittens, only one cat was able to get out.
The fire remains under investigation by local authorities, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal.