(Mankato, MN) – An owner of the St. Peter bowling alley destroyed by fire last month admitted that he accidentally started the blaze, which happened just days after his partner resigned from the business, according to court documents.
On Feb 16, the day of the fire, owner Dwight Selders told police he had been at the bowling alley the night before to repair a pinsetter, and planned to return the next day with a friend who could help.
But in a Feb 27 interview, Selders told investigators that he had been working on the pinsetter with a torch on Feb 16 when he accidentally set a towel on fire. The towel was placed inside a five-gallon pail with other rags that had flammable liquids on them, according to the application.
The court document says Selders admitted to seeing a fire in the pin setting area near the back of the bowling alley when he left the building. He told investigators he saw flames and fire in the lanes as he locked the building, but panicked and didn’t know why he failed to call 911 or try to stop the fire. He denied setting the fire intentionally, according to the search warrant.
Jessica Tonsfeldt was a co-owner of the bowling alley, and she and Selders had recently broken up, according to a search warrant application filed by St. Peter Detective Travis Sandland. Tonsfeldt told police Selders had lived with her until early February 2020. Tonsfeldt said she had sent a text message to Selders on Feb 11 stating that she was resigning from the business and would no longer be coming to work.
Tonsfeldt provided copies of texts sent from Selders that same day with messages such as “might as well just shut it down and let it go then,” and “we need this to work so we both don’t have a negative impact on us financially.”
Minnesota State Fire Marshal Investigator Ron Rahman concluded that the fire was ignited by the pin setting machine Selders was trying to repair. Rahman reported that a “significant level of an odor of an accelerant” was present in the area.
The search warrant applications request access to Selders internet history and search data related to fire, accelerants, or insurance claims, along with texts from Selders cell phone, and the financial health of Kingpins.