UPDATE: Suspects in antique store fire charged with arsonThe two suspects accused of setting fire to Off Broadway Antiques in Alexandria on October 7 were charged this week.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
The two suspects accused of setting fire to Off Broadway Antiques in Alexandria on October 7 were charged this week.
Bernard Michael Drivdahl, 53, of Benson was charged Tuesday with two counts of first-degree arson, one count of burglary and one count of theft.
The crime of first-degree arson is defined as setting fire to any structure in which people are or may be living, according to County Attorney Chris Karpan.
Judge Ann Carrott set Drivdahl’s bail at $200,000 cash or a $2 million bond.
Drivdahl was also charged with two different subdivisions of the career offender statute, which allows the court to increase his sentence, if he is convicted, to the full statutory limit of 20 years, Karpan said.
In order to be subject to this law, a criminal must have either two or more prior felony level convictions for crimes of violence or five or more felony level crimes of any type. Drivdahl meets the criteria, Karpan said.
Drivdahl’s girlfriend, Cassandra Sue Steward, 39, was charged Wednesday with two counts of aiding and abetting arson in the first degree, one count of possession of stolen property and one count of aiding an offender after the fact.
Judge Carrott set her bail in the amount of $25,000 cash or a $250,000 bond.
According to the authorities, the two suspects broke into Off Broadway Antiques at 201 6th Avenue East and stole rare coins and other miscellaneous items. Court documents allege that in an attempt to hide their evidence, the suspects used gasoline as an accelerant and started the building on fire.
Two apartments above the store were evacuated, along with numerous other apartments located in the 200 block of 6th Avenue East. The fire was contained to the Off Broadway Antiques building and did not spread to any of the other businesses on the block.
No one was injured in the blaze. The tenants in the building were helped by the local American Red Cross. Authorities described the smoke, fire and water damage as extensive.