Almost three years after an explosion set a Montgomery home ablaze, two property owners have been charged in an alleged insurance fraud and arson scheme. A third person suspected to be involved died in 2020.
Christopher Hale, of Lakeville, is charged with three counts of insurance fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit arson, all felonies. Isabella Hale is charged with two counts of insurance fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit arson. They're both accused of paying a third person to burn the house down so they could collect insurance money.
The person suspected of starting the fire three years ago, Kyle Dague, a 30-year-old man formerly employed at Christopher Hale’s Minnesota Kitchens Company, was reportedly found dead in Santa Monica, California, in September 2020. According to the complaint, he was seen at the residence prior to the fire and was at the hospital emergency room the night of the fire with lacerations on his face and body.
Christopher Hale and Isabella Hale, the listed property owners for the burned down home at 104 Third St. S.W. in Montgomery, will appear in Le Sueur County District Court at a later date.
The Le Sueur County Sheriff's Office announced the charges were filed in a May 28 press release. The fire took place July 17, 2018, and involved a reported explosion that destroyed the house on the property and inflicted extensive damages to a neighboring residence.
At the time, Christopher Hale was buying and selling houses and rental properties. When the fire occurred, the house was vacant and had been previously posted for sale.
The explosion and fire were reported to the Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center at just after 2 a.m. The Montgomery Fire Department responded to the location with assistance from the Le Center and New Prague Fire departments; the fire was controlled and extinguished.
After the fire, the Montgomery Police Department, assisted by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, CenterPoint Energy, National Pipeline Safety and representatives of State Farm Insurance investigated the cause and origin. After a natural gas line leak was eliminated as the cause, investigators dug out the remains of the house and located evidence of flammable liquids. Based on this evidence, along with information previously reported to the Police Department from neighbors that indicated the owner of the property was going to burn the house, the fire was ruled to have been intentionally set.
As part of the investigation, it was established that Christopher Hale and his significant other Isabella Hale were in the Boston area, visiting friends and family. After they returned to Minnesota, a Montgomery Police Department officer met with Christopher Hale and he denied any involvement with the fire.
During the investigation, a State Farm insurance agent told investigators that Christopher Hale had contacted them, before the fire, about coverage for the property, and he was mostly concerned about how much he would get paid if something happened to the home. The agent reportedly told Christopher Hale that the company would not insure the house if it was vacant. According to the complaint, Isabella Hale then submitted a lease with another person's signature; that person denied ever signing the lease and believed it to be forged.
A month before the fire, the Hales also submitted an invoice for $9,273 to State Farm for roof work they said was completed by a contractor. The contractor reportedly told the insurance agency that they had not done the work and had not been paid by the Hales.
Less than a month after the fire, Christopher Hale submitted a claim to State Farm Insurance totaling $365,000 for damaged and lost property. That claim included almost $44,000 in personal property damage, but investigators reportedly found minimal personal property inside the wreckage.
Over the course of the following weeks/months, the Montgomery Police Department requested that the Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Office assist with the investigation. As part of the investigation, Sheriff’s Office investigators collected additional witness statements and digital/electronic evidence involving the Hales. In February 2021, Le Sueur County investigators, assisted by the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office, executed a search warrant at Christopher and Isabelle Hale’s residence in rural Dakota County, where additional evidence was reportedly collected.