First responder charged with stealing cash from victim in crash that killed Kvalvog brothers

FARGO -- Before brothers Zach and Connor Kvalvog drove off to basketball camp with two friends in June, their father gave them each $100 in cash to spend at the Mall of America and Wisconsin Dells.

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Pallbearers of Zach and Connor Kvalvog console each other after placing the coffins of the two boys into hearses after a funeral service at Bethel Church in Fargo, N.D., on Monday, June 29, 2015. Nick Wagner / The Forum

FARGO -- Before brothers Zach and Connor Kvalvog drove off to basketball camp with two friends in June, their father gave them each $100 in cash to spend at the Mall of America and Wisconsin Dells.

The day after they were killed in a deadly crash near Fergus Falls, Minn., their grieving parents received their belongings and the father, Ray Kvalvog of Moorhead, said he found their wallets empty.

The two friends, who were injured, also had $100 when they left for camp, but their wallets were empty after the crash.

“When they had absolutely no money, I knew there was some skullduggery,” he said.

On Monday, Tara K. Lindquist, a Dalton, Minn., firefighter who was among the first responders at the scene of the June 23 crash, was charged with stealing from the victims. The single theft charge she faces carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine.


Investigators said that Lindquist had admitted to taking $120 from a wallet she found at the edge of the highway and used it to pay her power bill.

A phone message left for Lindquist on Monday afternoon wasn’t returned.

“One of the most disappointing things is, outside of taking money from victims, is what are these people doing? Are they not interested in doing their jobs?" said Kvalvog, who praised state investigators for getting to the bottom of the case. He said he wonders how many other crash victims have had their belongings pilfered.

Shocking crash

The death of the Kvalvog brothers was a body blow to the close-knit Park Christian School in Moorhead. Hundreds turned out the night after the crash to mourn them.

Zach, 18, had been a star basketball player. Connor, 14, was to join his brother on the team next year, as were Mark Schwandt, 17, Moorhead, and Jimmy Morton, 18, Jackson, Miss. All four were in the pickup as it headed east on Interstate 94 the morning of June 23. The pickup Zach Kvalvog was driving crashed in a rollover near Fergus Falls, killing the Kvalvogs and injuring the other two.

State troopers are still investigating the crash. Ray Kvalvog has said the Dodge Ram his son was driving was one of the models recently subjected to a sweeping buyback due to safety concerns, including a steering defect.

Investigators said that each of the boys had been given $100 to spend along the way. When their belongings were given to their family members, all the cash was gone, including the $100 bills.


Investigators interviewed Lindquist, a member of the Dalton Fire and Rescue Department, and she confessed to taking some of the money from one of the wallets, a court complaint alleges. No other person has been charged with the theft of cash from the remaining wallets.

Officials from the Minnesota State Patrol and the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Department, which were involved in the investigation, didn’t return phone messages Monday.

Veteran firefighter

Lindquist, 42, has had a brief brush with the law when, in her early 20s, she was convicted of theft, according to state records. She joined Dalton Fire and Rescue a few years later and has served with the department since.

A few years ago, she fell on hard times after a tick bite infected her with a flesh-eating bacteria, leaving her unable to work. The community held a fundraiser for her in 2013 and neighbors had helped out around the house then.

Kvalvog said he doesn’t know what kind of dire straits the thief or thieves who took money from his sons and their friends were in, but they should’ve asked for help, not steal.

It bothers him that one of the rescuers might have been the culprit, he said. “You put your trust in these people as public service people to do their job and help people.”

But he won’t let the theft shake his faith in people. “I do believe by the outpouring of goodness that we’ve had from people in this accident – over 3,000 cards, thousands of dollars that we have to give back to this community – how good people really are.”


Tara K. Lindquist

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