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Jilted ex-boyfriend pleads guilty in fire for attempted murder

WALKER - A 23-year-old Akeley man pleaded guilty here after setting fire to a home with nine people inside, apparently targeting an ex-girlfriend.

Brandon Todd Sannan pleaded guilty Monday in Cass County District Court to third-degree attempted murder and first-degree arson.

A news release from the Cass County Attorney's Office said the pleas were part of an agreement calling for Sannan to serve 10 years in prison for both counts, which are to be served consecutively.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the case:

At 12:16 a.m. Jan. 8, Timothy and Carla Voelke reported their home in Chickama Beach was on fire.

Firefighters from Pine River arrived at the home to find it engulfed in flames.

The Minnesota State Fire Marshal determined the home was intentional set on fire.

Upon investigation, the Cass County Sheriff's Office and Pine River police found the Voelkes and seven minor children, including six of their grandchildren, were in the home at the time of the fire.

The nine people inside were able to escape the home, but the blaze destroyed it and its contents.

Court records state Voelkes' adult daughter, Whitney, had recently ended a relationship with Sannan, who became increasingly possessive and sent up to 100 text message per day to her.

In addition, investigators said Sannan repeatedly sent text message Jan. 7 to her and pleaded to continue the relationship. Eventually, some texts included threats to have the woman assaulted, and Sannan sent another text the following day to apologize.

Investigators also discovered Sannan spent the night at a nearby residence after fishing Jan. 7 with relatives of the Voelkes. The news release from prosecutors said Sannan told officers he stole a lighter and gas can from the home and walked to the Voelke residence, where he poured gas on the corner of the home and lit it.

"As he was walking away, he observed the fire had gone out so he returned and used the lighter to ignite a wicker chair ... on the deck," the release said. "He then left and snuck back into the house where he was staying. The next day, he got up and went fishing."

Judge John Smith ordered a pre-sentence investigation into Sannan's background be completed before a sentencing hearing June 11.