Charges: Paynesville, Minn. man intentionally set own apartment on fire

A Paynesville, Minnesota man is accused of intentionally starting a fire in his own apartment early Tuesday morning, causing 40 other people in his apartment building to be displaced.

A witness told police they saw Sue Lee, 27, carry a gas can from his car into his apartment around 3:30 a.m. and leave the apartment shortly after, the charges say. The witness then smelled smoke and noticed the building was on fire.

When police arrived, the fire had already burned through the west side of Lee’s apartment and was burning up to the second floor and the roof.

During the investigation, officers noticed there was no personal property in the apartment, except for a couch. The State Fire Marshall’s office determined an ignitable liquid was poured onto the couch and set on fire.

According to the criminal complaint, Lee showed up at his sister’s house around 7:00 a.m. and told her he had been evicted and had burned his apartment down. Lee’s sister told police she believes her brother has mental health issues.

Police located Lee in Brooklyn Park and took him into custody. Two lighters were found in his possession.

The officers who arrested Lee said he asked them, “So, how much did I burn?”

During a search of Lee’s vehicle, officers found a large amount of personal property, three lighters and a brand new gas can with a small amount of liquid in it inside the car.

Lee is charged with two counts of arson.

The Red Cross and several other community organizations are helping the 40 residents of the apartment building who were displaced by the fire, the Paynesville Fire Department said in news release. Anyone who would like to help the victims of the fire can contact the Paynesville Community Center at 320-243-4953.