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Wendy Reuer, Published November 09 2012

After DUI arrest, West Fargo man charged with setting fire to home

WEST FARGO – A man is accused of setting the fire that destroyed his home and killed six pets here Thursday, in charges that came after he was arrested for drunken driving with a loaded gun in his car.

The home fire at 1304 Starr Ave. was reported around 4:10 p.m. Thursday.

About 10 minutes later, a North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper noticed a car driven by Bill Everett Murray, 23, of West Fargo, heading west on Interstate 94 at about 90 mph.

The trooper stopped the car and as he approached, he saw the man inside put the barrel of a rifle to his neck. The trooper was able to grab the gun away from the driver, pulling it through the window, records say.

A live round was found in the chamber of the gun.

Murray was arrested for driving under the influence and taken to Essentia Health before he was booked into the Cass County Jail.

The trooper said he could smell a strong odor of liquor on Murray and a bottle of hard liquor was found in his car. Murray told the trooper he was struggling with depression, the report said.

In the meantime, a deputy fire marshal determined the mobile home fire was intentionally set. It likely started in the living room on a chair where a notebook sat, the marshal said in a report. The home was a complete loss with damage estimated at $20,000.

Witnesses reported seeing a car matching Murray’s speed off toward the interstate at the time of the fire, court documents said.

Murray told the deputy fire marshal he could not remember setting the fire.

After speaking with the deputy fire marshal about Murray, the trooper reviewed the tape of his squad car camera that recorded Murray after he was inside the squad. Murray was recorded saying, “I set fire to my … home,” the trooper claims in court records.

Murray was charged on Thursday in Cass County District Court with endangering by fire or explosion, a Class C felony, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Murray was also charged with having a loaded firearm in a vehicle and driving under the influence, two Class B misdemeanors.

He is scheduled to appear next in court on Dec. 6.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530