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Woman faces arson charges for burning house down

Nicole Joanna O'Day of Pequot Lakes moves her pony to a safe area while firefighters extiguish a fire at her home last September. O'Day now faces arson charges and will have her first appearance Oct. 31 in Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/File Photo Steve Kohls1 / 4
Nisswa and Pequot Lakes firefighters last year hose down a home located on Middle Cullen Road off Crow Wing County Road 18, 2 miles east of Nisswa. The homeowner, Nicole Joanna O'Day, now faces arson charges and will have her first appearance Oct. 31 in Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/File Photo Steve Kohls2 / 4
Nisswa and Pequot Lakes firefighters last year hose down a home located on Middle Cullen Road off Crow Wing County Road 18, 2 miles east of Nisswa. The homeowner, Nicole Joanna O'Day, now faces arson charges and will have her first appearance Oct. 31 in Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/File Photo Steve Kohls3 / 4
Nisswa and Pequot Lakes firefighters last year hose down a home located on Middle Cullen Road off Crow Wing County Road 18, 2 miles east of Nisswa. The homeowner, Nicole Joanna O'Day, now faces arson charges and will have her first appearance Oct. 31 in Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/File Photo Steve Kohls 4 / 4

Arson charges have been filed against a 44-year-old Pequot Lakes woman who is accused of setting her home on fire last year.

Nicole Joanna O'Day, owner of A MAZE-N-PUMPKINZ, was summoned Oct. 5 to appear in court on two counts of felony first-degree arson. O'Day's first appearance on the charges is scheduled at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 31 in front of Judge Richard A. Zimmerman in Crow Wing County District Court.

O'Day reported a fire at her log-style home at 2:56 a.m. Sept. 1, 2015, and the next day she called firefighters again when there was another fire at her home on Middle Cullen Road off Crow Wing County Road 18, 2 miles east of Nisswa.

Firefighters from Nisswa, with mutual aid from Pequot Lakes Fire Department, responded to the first fire and found the living room of the home to be fully engulfed in flames. Last year, Nisswa Fire Chief Richard Geike, while on scene of the fire, told a Dispatch reporter that firefighting crews were able to contain the first fire in the living room, kitchen and bedroom and that the home was not a total loss. Geike at the time said the cause of the fire appeared to be suspicious and they suspected arson. Deputy State Fire Marshall Mark Germain was called in to investigate.

In the probable cause court document filed against O'Day, the fire was believed to be arson based on there being several ignition sites in the residence. Germain located four ignition points inside the house.

The court records stated O'Day spoke with an insurance adjuster later on Sept. 1, 2015, and went through the residence with him and a firefighter. O'Day asked when she could knock the house down. He told her the house was not a total loss and would be able to be repaired. O'Day asked about getting a check and was told she would need to be eliminated as a suspect, the court records stated.

Several people went through the residence on Sept. 1, 2015, including firefighters, the adjuster and Germain. There were no hotspots or smoke when the adjuster was in the residence on the night of Sept. 1, 2015. At 9:37 a.m. Sept. 2, 2015, O'Day called again and reported her residence was fully engulfed in flames. Both fires were started when O'Day was admittedly the only person at the residence, the court document stated.

O'Day claimed she was with Rodney Litzau in the early morning hours of Sept. 1, 2015, and returned home when the house was already on fire, court records stated. However, Litzau told law enforcement O'Day had dropped him off at home at least an hour before the fire. Another witness advised law enforcement that she went to the residence after the fires and O'Day had moved many items into a garage before the fire including clothes, bathroom items, books, baseball cards, photo albums and other items O'Day used or wore daily, the court records stated. The witness had been at the residence prior to the fire and all of the items were in the house. The witness also heard O'Day comment about burning the house down and starting fresh. She also talked about insurance covering a broken appliance if there were a house fire.

O'Day declined to comment on the felony charges when reached by phone Wednesday.

When O'Day was interviewed after the two fires last fall, she said, "I have no clue who would try to burn down my house. I truly try to kill people with kindness because that is the way I think life should be. If you can't say any kind words don't say nothing at all. My worst fault is I am too nice and I thought that was the best thing."

O'Day said she was driving home from an annual celebration early that September morning when she saw her home was on fire. She said then she was thankful that her children were not home at the time.

O'Day's business, A MAZE-N-PUMPKINZ, is located on the same property as her home and offers a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, hayrides, a corn kernel sandbox for children to play in and seasonal photography opportunities in the pumpkin patch and in theme rooms located within the maze.