Austin Telthoester, Renville County Jail

Charges say a Renville man who allegedly lit his house on fire with five children and his wife inside blamed raccoons for the blaze.

Austin Aberhard Telthoester, 24, was charged Tuesday with felony 1st-degree arson and five counts of child endangerment in Renville County Court.

Renville police responded on February 4 to a fire at Telthoester’s home. Court documents say flames were coming out of Telthoester’s upstairs bedroom window, but he seemed unconcerned the home was on fire.

A criminal complaint says Telthoester had “bug eyes,” and stuck his tongue out as he paced back and forth shaking his head.  He allegedly told police he wanted to watch the house burn and continuously asked the responding officer if he wanted to fight.  The complaint said Telthoester threatened to kill the officer if he did not “negotiate.”

Telthoester’s wife said she was at home with the five children when Telthoester asked her if she heard a noise, then lit the wall of their bedroom with a green camping torch.

Two children saw Telthoester go upstairs with the lighter, according to the complaint.  Another child said he heard Telthoester talking to someone in the house who wasn’t there before seeing flames upstairs.

The second floor of the home sustained most of the fire damage.  Police say a green lighter was found at the base of the staircase.

The fire marshal ruled the blaze arson, according to the complaint.

Telthoester told investigators he had no idea what started the fire, but there were raccoons inside the walls lately.


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