Home buyer's home up in flames; arrest made - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Home buyer's home up in flames; arrest made

Tracy Hinkley Tracy Hinkley
Mayla Gill Mayla Gill

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- A late night fire breaks out at Oak Terrace Estates in southeast Rochester... leaving a new homeowner homeless, and the former homeowner behind bars.

It happened at 11 p.m. Saturday night.

"All of a sudden, we started to see flames shooting outside the house," said the neighbor across the street from Unit #198 Sarah Christiansen.  Christiansen was on her front porch at 11 p.m.  "And so I ran inside," she explained, "grabbed the house-phone and called 9-1-1. And told them my neighbors house is on fire!"

Christiansen was met by her neighbor across the road, Melissa Janes, who had awakened to the noises outside and a flicker of light on her window.  "That's the only reason I looked," she said.  "Because I saw the flicker in my back door."

Both neighbors say they witnessed the homeowner leaving the scene while the building was on fire.  "She was backing out of her driveway," said Janes.  "Which I thought she was just moving her truck. But she kept driving."

"She just got in her vehicle and left," said Christiansen.

Janes said she's thankful her home had medal siding as the flames got close to her house.  "The only damage, I mean really I have, is the smoke smell in my house," she said.  "There's absolutely no damage to my house in any way."

The homeowner, Tracy Hinkley, was booked into the Olmsted County Adult Detention Center at 12:06 a.m., just one hour after the fire was reported.  Hinkley faces two possible misdemeanor charges, 3rd degree DWI and 2nd Degree Refusing to take a breathalyzer test.

The story gets more complicated. The house recently just sold on the market and the new homeowner was ready to move in. "Basically we'll be homeless for a couple days," said Mayla Gill.

Gill purchased the foreclosed home and wasn't told about the fire... she found out first hand.

"(I) came to see or talk to her about coming to puts stuff in it and when I could come do that. And it was on fire and the police department was here," she said.  Gill was looking to move to a new neighborhood.

Just this last August, her apartment at 8 1/2 Street SE was sprayed by bullets in an apparent drive by shooting in Rochester.  Unnerved by the incident, Gill,her fiancé and three children were looking for a fresh start.

"It could be something that we could call our own," she said.  "And my kids could play out in the yard and not have to worry about danger or bad stuff happening. But now we have to find somewhere else."

Gill tells us she will probably stay at a relative or close friends house until she finds another place to  live.   She says no money had been exchanged yet in the purchase of this foreclosed home.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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