NB man, 21, pleads guilty to arson fire
The 21-year-old North Branch man who was charged in connection with the Nov. 4 arson fire at the North Branch Veterinary Hospital has been sentenced following his guilty plea to second degree arson in Chisago County District Court.
Ryan Keith Ortlepp pleaded guilty to the top count, while a second charge, deemed a gross misdemeanor, was dismissed. His sentencing Feb. 27 was amended March 11 by Judge Schoffelman. An 18-month prison sentence was stayed for 10 years on the condition that he comply with the terms of his sentence, according to Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter.
Ortlepp will serve 120 days in the local jail, with credit for time already served. He will be required to remain law abiding, abstain from alcohol and all non-prescribed controlled substances and submit to random testing. He also is required to comply with the recommendations from his evaluation and attend cognitive skills training and pay a fine of $70, Reiter said.
Further, he will be required to make payments toward restitution (to be determined) to the victim, which is the veterinary hospital. Ortlepp is prohibited from carrying firearms, will be required to submit a DNA sample to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and stay 75 yards away from the North Branch Veterinary Hospital.
City police and multiple fire departments responded to the veterinary hospital fire around 3:29 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Five dogs and a cat were rescued, and there were no injuries.
Confirming it an act of arson, the State Fire Marshal initially assessed the blaze started when someone used a lighter to ignite items contained within the recycling cans outside the building’s southeast area. The damage to the building was estimated to be at least $20,000.
A reward of up to $2,500 had been offered for information leading to an arrest, while a string of similar fires and arson attempts — including a dumpster fire around the same time as and near the vet hospital and a Nov. 2 dumpster fire at the Pizza Pub — had been done in the city’s central business district since earlier that spring.
Dr. Al Kemplin, owner of the veterinary hospital at 38875 12th Ave. since 1999, said he was initially “stunned with disbelief” when authorities alerted him of the early morning fire by phone call. His dog, Tria, was one of the animals rescued by responding authorities who either heard the dogs barking or thought to check inside due to the nature of the business.
By the time Kemplin arrived, the fire was out but not before it caused extensive roof and utility damage on the southeast corner of the building. Still, the business remained open in the days following, with staff taking phone calls and walk-in inquiries from pet owners.
The hospital then was temporarily relocated to a space behind AmericInn, next to Perkins, in North Branch where staff was back to serving clients Nov. 12. Meantime, work continues on the hospital building that was set ablaze.