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Dave Olson, Published August 27 2010

Attorney: Moorhead fire chief didn’t leak information

Moorhead police are looking into whether the city’s fire chief, Joel Hewitt, shared information about a double homicide investigation with someone he wasn’t supposed to, according to an attorney with a law firm that is representing Hewitt.

“My understanding is he (Hewitt) didn’t do it. He wouldn’t have had any crime scene information to know, or share, and he’s cooperated with that investigation,” said Trevor Oliver, an attorney with Kelly & Lemmons, a law firm in the Twin Cities.

Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger, who placed Hewitt on administrative leave with pay on Tuesday, said Wednesday that the city is looking into allegations of “official misconduct” but would disclose no details.

Redlinger said late Thursday afternoon that he had no further comment on the case.

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said the city’s internal investigation is civil, not criminal.

However, there is a separate investigation being done by police, according to Police Chief David Ebinger, who said he couldn’t discuss specifics of an active investigation, though he confirmed Hewitt was the subject of the probe.

Oliver said when Moorhead police contacted Hewitt to ask him questions, Hewitt contacted the law firm, after which Hewitt agreed to talk to a police detective.

“The detective should have been able to speak to Joel and get the information he wanted,” Oliver said.

Oliver added that before the law firm gave the OK for Hewitt to talk to police, Oliver spoke with a detective himself to find out what police wanted to know.

Oliver said a detective told him that authorities were looking into claims made by a woman who said Hewitt told her details about the scene of the double homicide and police wanted to know whether anything was disclosed that could potentially harm the case.

“Really, they’re doing it to understand what had been released: what damage, if any, had actually been done to their investigation as far as details they were trying to keep under wraps and any witnesses that might have been compromised,” Oliver said.

“My sense from Joel is, there are none, there couldn’t have been any,” he added.

The double homicide in question likely involves John Cadotte and Megan Londo, whose bodies were found after firefighters arrived at the scene of a suspected arson fire in Moorhead on Feb. 19.

The structure at 901 9th Ave. S. is a three-unit apartment just east of the Concordia College campus.

In connection with that case, a grand jury that convened earlier this week in Clay County District Court handed down a first-degree murder indictment Wednesday against Tracy Alan Zornes of Naytahwaush, Minn.

Aside from the Moorhead police probe, Oliver said he is not aware of any other investigations focusing on Hewitt.

Ebinger said he is aware of at least one other investigation that Hewitt may be tied to, but added, “I don’t know if he (Hewitt) is an object of that investigation.”

Hewitt was named Moorhead’s fire chief in March 2004.

Before that, he was head of the St. Anthony (Minn.) Fire Department.

Prior to his tenure as fire chief in St. Anthony, Hewitt was fire chief in Maplewood, Minn.

Oliver said lawyers from his firm served as city attorneys in Maplewood during the time Hewitt was the city’s fire chief.

Hewitt declined comment when reached at his home Thursday.

Moorhead’s fire marshal, Rich Duysen, has been named acting fire chief while Hewitt is on administrative leave.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555