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June trial set for Chamberlain woman who allegedly lit own home ablaze

Megan Donaldson-Thomas' trial is scheduled for June 26 on charges of first-degree arson and reckless burning.

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Firefighters working to put out a South Dakota house fire.
Sam Fosness / Mitchell Republic

CHAMBERLAIN — A trial date has been set for June 26 for Megan Donaldson-Thomas, the woman arrested in January for allegedly setting fire to the Chamberlain house she and her husband lived in.

On Jan. 18, Deputy Jonathan Haugaard of Brule County arrived on the scene at 820 S. Merrill St. in Chamberlain to find thick smoke erupting from the doors, windows, and eves of the roof of a house, as detailed in a report by authorities.

With prior knowledge that Donaldson-Thomas and her husband lived in the house, the deputy then learned from another officer and the Chamberlain fire chief, who were already on the scene, that Donaldson-Thomas voluntarily turned herself into the sheriff’s office and allegedly admitted she was the one who started the fire.

The deputy drove to the sheriff's office and questioned Donaldson-Thomas. Court documents say Thomas started the fire after an argument with her husband, the house's owner since before they had been married.

After noticing her husband had driven off in her car following their dispute, an angry Donaldson-Thomas tried to smoke a cigarette but could not find one. Upon sitting on a bed in her basement with a cigarette lighter, she held the lighter to a dress hanging from the ceiling, causing it to burn, court documents say. Telling Haugaard later she was “tired of the house,” she then walked out of the house, leaving it to burn so she could “never go back.” There were no injuries in the fire.

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The trial date is set for 9 a.m. June 26 at the Brule County Courthouse.

Donaldson-Thomas, 40, has been charged with first-degree arson and reckless burning. First-degree arson is a Class 2 felony, which is punishable upon conviction by up to 25 years in prison and a fire of up to $50,000. Reckless burning is a Class 4 felony, which is punishable upon 10 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

Kai Englisch joined The Mitchell Republic in 2023, where he currently works as a general assignment reporter covering the greater Mitchell area. Englisch graduated from St. John's College in 2022, receiving a B.A. in Liberal Arts. He speaks German and conversational Spanish.
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