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Man pleads guilty to setting Virginia fire

A Virginia man pleaded guilty Monday to setting a Nov. 5 fire that caused about $1 million damage to several downtown Virginia buildings and displaced 21 apartment dwellers.

A Virginia man pleaded guilty Monday to setting a Nov. 5 fire that caused about $1 million damage to several downtown Virginia buildings and displaced 21 apartment dwellers.

Tyler William Erickson pleaded guilty in St. Louis County District Court in Virginia to one count each of arson in the first degree, burglary in the first degree and criminal damage to property in the first degree. He had been charged with three counts of arson in the first degree, two counts of burglary in the first degree and two counts of criminal damage to property in the first degree in connection with the fire.

Judge Gary J. Pagliaccettii scheduled sentencing for March 3. Because of crowding at the St. Louis County Jail, he is being held in the Lake County Jail on $300,000 bail.

According to the criminal complaint filed Nov. 7, Erickson allegedly lit the fire after a marijuana deal went bad.

Erickson had earlier that night met a female on the corner of Second Avenue and Fifth Street and wanted to buy $220 worth of marijuana from her, according to the complaint. After giving the female the money, she reportedly took off.

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Erickson, in a statement to Virginia Police, said he "just snapped," according to the complaint. Erickson told police he found out where the woman lived, went to a nearby gas station, bought some lighter fluid, sprayed it on her couch, and used matches to start the fire.

A 16-year-old male later wrestled Erickson to the ground in a nearby service station parking lot until police arrived. The teen said he saw Erickson pouring charcoal lighter fluid on the couch and lighting it.

About 50 firefighters from Virginia, Mountain Iron, Fayal Township, Eveleth, Gilbert and Hibbing responded to the fire in the 100 block of Chestnut Street. One firefighter suffered a sprained ankle. One apartment tenant suffered burns on a shoulder and singed hair while trying to put out the fire with an extinguisher. Several cats and dogs died in the blaze.

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