Lake Lillian Business Owner Charged with Arson 07 Aug 14

Three weeks after the September 23rd fire that destroyed the K & M Liquor Store in Lake Lillian, investigators ruled it had been arson.

This week, the West Central Tribune reports authorities charged a suspect.

The owner of the building and business, 51-year-old Mary Sue Whitcomb, of rural Atwater, is charged with felony counts of arson in the second degree and insurance fraud.

The charges were filed Monday in District Court in Kandiyohi County. Whitcomb is scheduled to make her first court appearance on the charges August 27.

A criminal complaint alleges that the business had been losing money and that Whitcomb had been unsuccessful in attempts to sell it. The business had been refinanced only two weeks before the fire, but the business’s bank account continued to show a negative balance. Overdraft fees on the account totaled $3,940 at the time of the fire. The asking price for the business had been dropped from $65,000 to $49,900, according to the allegations.

Following the fire, Whitcomb submitted a claim to her insurance company on November 4 for losses and damages totaling $75,304.56.

The fire marshal determined that the fire was not accidental, and had been caused when a match or lighter was used to ignite paper towels and toilet tissues in the bathroom.

The complaint alleges that Whitcomb was the last person in the building before the fire. She had left it about 15 minutes before the resident reported the fire.