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Published July 27 2011

Tenants question why Goldmark rented apartment to man with extensive criminal history after garage break-in, fire

FARGO – Police here followed a trail of blood to the south Fargo apartment of a man accused of breaking into a neighbor’s garage and setting its contents on fire Monday evening.

On Tuesday, the couple whose belongings were burned raised questions about why Goldmark Property Management Inc. rented a unit to 41-year-old Jade Dean Hemmes, given his extensive criminal history. His record includes felony convictions for aggravated assault in 2002 and illegal possession of an explosive in 1994, both in Grand Forks County, and a misdemeanor drug possession conviction in Cass County in January.

“I’m trying to figure out how Goldmark even let him in the complex to begin with,” Travis Martinez said. “They said he passed a background check. Well, if I can Google his name and find these things online, how the hell did he pass a background check?”

Angela Thurow, property manager for Goldmark’s Danbury Apartments complex where the fire occurred, had no comment. A three-day eviction notice was stuck in Hemmes’ doorway Tuesday.

Hemmes was arrested Monday on suspicion of felony criminal mischief, burglary and disorderly conduct, Sgt. Mark Lykken said. Hemmes is expected to make his first court appearance today. Charges had not been filed by the end of business Tuesday.

A message delivered to the jail seeking comment from Hemmes was not returned.

Martinez and his wife, Samantha, who live a few doors down from Hemmes and own the garage that was burglarized, said Hemmes displayed erratic behavior during the few weeks he lived in the building at 4102 18th Ave. S. They said Hemmes tried to barge into their apartment unit about 20 minutes before the fire.

“He knocks on the door, I open the door and he literally tried to barge in,” said Martinez, a burly 36-year-old construction worker. “And I’m a rather large guy, and he got stopped right at the door. Well, then he started talking a bunch of different crap and then he’s like, ‘It all ends tonight.’ And then 20 minutes later, I see the flames.”

Firefighters were called at 8:39 p.m. Monday to the parking lot fire, which they quickly extinguished. Clothes, tools and a tent were among the burned contents that police said were valued at about $2,000.

The only things left in the couple’s garage were their two children’s bicycles, a baby stroller and a love seat – covered in blood, Samantha Martinez said.

Hemmes had cut his hand, allegedly while breaking into the garage, and police followed the blood trail back to his third-floor apartment and arrested him, Lykken said. Blood stains could still be seen in the building entrance and in front of Hemmes’ door on Tuesday afternoon.

After the parking lot fire, tenants and police smelled smoke coming from Hemmes’ apartment and called firefighters to the unit, Lykken said. Inside, they found two pizzas burning in the oven and the fire alarms deactivated, he said.

Travis Martinez said there also was plastic on the stove top that had started to melt, and paper was strewn about the apartment.

Martinez said Hemmes also had in his apartment the couple’s missing wedding trinket and goblet. The trinket was covered in blood, the goblet full of it, he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528