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Mad Prank Punished

The bizarre cause of a Minot fire was reported on this date in 1916, along with the sadistic story involving the culprit. The fire had occurred in Minot a few days earlier and had consumed the entire Blakey-Roell block. Arthur Hileman was arrested in connection with the fire by the Minot police on a charge of arson and assault.

A few days earlier, Hileman, who owned a small business in the basement of one of the block’s buildings, had been drinking with a few friends. When one of his pals, a man named Westegard, fell asleep in the building, Hileman took the opportunity to pull a prank on the drunken man. Hileman soaked the bottom of Westegard’s pants in wood alcohol, and then proceeded to light the pants on fire. Westegard awoke, and his efforts to put the flames out spread the fire to the rest of the room. The fire quickly overtook the rest of the building.

Westegard emerged badly burned from the incident, and he was rushed to a local doctor for treatment; it was fortunate that he did not burn to death as a result of the prank. Due to the sensitive nature of the crime, authorities decided to keep the details of the fire concealed until the testimony of the patient could be properly recorded and the culprit positively identified.

Hileman waived his right to a preliminary hearing and was issued a bail of $2,000. The bail was unusually high, but was deemed fair in light of the seriousness of the crime.

Dakota Datebook by Jayme Job

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