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Emily Welker, Published January 14 2014

Pair charged in church burglaries accused of arson in Valley City church fire

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – Two people previously arrested in connection with a church burglary here in September are now charged with arson in a church fire that caused about $2.5 million in damages.

Andrew Michael Miklas, 25, of Valley City, was charged Monday in Barnes County District Court with Class B felony arson, as well as one count of endangering by fire or explosion and two counts of burglary, which are Class C felonies. He also face a misdemeanor theft charge.

Nicole Ellen Lindermann, 18, of Kathryn, was also charged Monday in Barnes County court with criminal conspiracy to commit arson and burglary, Class B and Class C felonies, respectively, and misdemeanor conspiracy to commit theft.

Court documents filed with the charges say Lindermann told Special Agent Derek Hill of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that she and Miklas had been involved in an earlier string of burglaries of area churches, some of which occurred in late September.

On Oct. 21, in the early morning, Miklas wanted to get more money from the churches, Lindermann said. She told the agent she did not want to be involved but went with Miklas anyway.

She and Miklas went to Faith Lutheran Church in Valley City, where he used a screwdriver to pry open the door. Having stolen three bottles of wine and $20, Miklas tried to start a fire with paint thinner, but the church wouldn’t burn, she said.

He found a can of gas in the bed of a pickup a few blocks away, she told the ATF agent, and went back to burn the church, saying he wanted to cover up the thefts.

One estimate put the damage to the church at around $2.5 million, court records state.

Miklas was wearing a court-ordered ankle bracelet at the time, she said.

Miklas had been previously accused of burglarizing the Faith Lutheran Church with Lindermann.

Multiple other churches were burglarized the weekend of Sept. 28 and 29, including Trinity Lutheran, Our Savior’s Lutheran and the Congregational United Church of Christ.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541