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Antique store arsonist sentenced

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The interior of the Off Broadway Antiques was badly damaged in a fire on October 7, 2010. File photo.2 / 2

A 54-year-old Benson man was sentenced to five years in prison for setting fire to an antique store in downtown Alexandria.

Bernard Michael Drivdahl received the sentence from Judge Ann Carrott in Douglas County District Court on February 15.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree arson on October 10, 2011.

As part of a plea agreement, other charges were dismissed, including first-degree arson, third-degree burglary and theft.

Drivdahl was given credit for the time he's served in jail.

The case stems back to October 7, 2010 when the building at 201 6th Avenue East, which housed Off Broadway Antiques and two upper apartments, caught fire at about 11 p.m.

Firefighters were able to stop the blaze from spreading to other businesses on the block. No one was injured.

Drivdahl and his girlfriend, Cassandra Sue Steward, also of Benson, were arrested three days later in Benson following an investigation that involved the Alexandria Police Department, the Benson Police Department and the Swift County Sheriff's Office.

Drivdahl and Steward allegedly broke into the store and stole rare coins and other miscellaneous items. In an attempt to hide evidence of the crime, they used gasoline as an accelerant and started the building on fire, according to court documents.

Steward, 40, was sentenced this past June to 187 days in jail for receiving stolen property and aiding an offender to avoid arrest, both felonies. She was given credit for the 125 days in jail she had already served. She was also ordered to pay $1,960 in restitution.

A 15-month prison sentence against Steward was stayed for 10 years. As part of a plea agreement, arson charges against her were dismissed.

Although the antique store was forced to close, the building is getting a new lease on life.

It was sold to Rod Borden, a general contractor with Lifetime Homes of Alexandria, and he's in the process of renovating the structure and putting it back on the market.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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