BARRON COUNTY — Multiple felony charges have been filed against a Minnesota man following an investigation into an arson that recently occurred at a laundromat adjacent to the Don Johnson Collision Center in Cumberland, WI.
On December 17, 2019, shortly after 3a, the Cumberland Police Department responded to a report of a possible burglary at the Don Johnson Collision Center in Cumberland, WI. An employee of the Collision Center arrived to work around 3a, and noticed that there were keys missing and a bucket of quarters was also gone. The employee also noticed the smell of smoke coming from the laundromat and contacted Barron County Dispatch. The employee told Law Enforcement that as 911 was being dialed, the sound of a vehicle horn beep was heard and headlights were seen flashing from a parked vehicle on the west side of the building.
Officers who responded to the location also noticed that although the laundromat, owned by Ignition Enterprises, is a 24/7 building, the inside lights were turned off. The Officer also noticed the smell of smoke. A broken window was found on a side service door for the Collision Center and outside the door on the ground, Officers found a set of keys belonging to a vehicle inside the Collision Center.
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It was later discovered that multiple sets of keys were missing from inside the Collision Center along with $62.00 cash from the petty cash drawer as well as a bucket containing approximately $50.00 in quarters.
When authorities responded to the scene, a fire was active inside the laundromat. Firefighters responded to the west side of the building to put out the fire.
The heat from the fire destroyed the ceiling and melted plastic parts on most of the commercial washers and dryers. The office containing the laundromat’s security system also sustained serious damage. The hard drive that stored recorded video from the security system was completely burned up and melted. In total, the fire caused damages estimated to be in excess of $600,000.
The drive up kiosks for coin-operated vacuums located outside the laundromat also sustained damage. Officers found a stainless steel cover for one machine lying on the ground in front of the machine along with a set of keys and a padlock for the machine. The coin bay for the machine was empty.
Around 7a on December 17, Law Enforcement responded to a report of an erratic driver with a vehicle that went into a ditch on U.S. Highway 63 near 60th Avenue. The driver of the vehicle was taken into custody and later identified as Hienok Demessie, of Otsego, MN.
Inside the vehicle, authorities located multiple single-use packets of laundry supplies, a mini pry bar, a pair of black gloves, a pair of white gloves, a long-sleeved black shirt, a network security camera in its box, a toll of black lawn and trash bags, two crescent wrenches, a lighter, a pair of blue colored Dickies Pants. Also found was a bag with 2 receipts from Walmart dated December 17, 2019, shortly after 4:30a; one of the receipts being a coin voucher for nearly $400.
The owners of the crashed vehicle were found and they confirmed that they had not given permission for the vehicle to be taken. They removed numerous items from the vehicle that did not belong to them including a duffel bag containing several new pairs of gloves, T-shirts, a packet of black-colored zip ties, and several new earbuds and cell phone charger cords.
Multiple items located in the vehicle, including the security camera, were identified as having come from the Collision Center.
Law Enforcement reviewed evidence from the scene including footprints that had been left in the snow and found that numerous footprint impressions from the scene matched the sole of the boots worn by Demessie at the time of his arrest.
Surveillance camera footage from the Walmart in Rice Lake, WI showed that Demessie was at the Walmart in the time frame indicated on the receipts, according to the criminal complaint.
In addition, Law Enforcement spoke with witnesses who placed Demessie at a meeting in Cumberland on the evening of December 16, 2019, and determined that Demessie made his way to the Don Johnson Collision Center during the night.
Demessie is charged with Class C Felony Arson of Building, 2 counts of Class F Felony Burglary of Building or Dwelling, Class G Felony Theft - Movable Property (>$10,000 - $100,000), Class I Felony Possession of Burglarious Tools, Class I Felony Criminal Damage to Property, and Class H Felony Operating a Motor Vehicle Without Owner’s Consent.
The Court ordered a $50,000 cash bail bond for Demessie, who made a court appearance on December 23, 2019, regarding his criminal charges. He is scheduled to appear again in January 2020.
Pursuant to the direction of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as found in Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6, Trial Publicly, you are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.