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Update: Murder charges filed in Ponsford death

The house in Ponsford was still smoldering after a Monday afternoon fire. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Ponsford man has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson in the death of  a woman who lived with him.

The charges were filed in Becker County District Court Tuesday.

Charles James Jones

Charles James Jones, 48, of 29486 County Road 129, Ponsford, is accused of setting fire to the house while his girlfriend, Shalonda Sioux Clark, 35, slept on the couch.

She died in the ensuing fire, which heavily damaged the two-story wood-frame house.

Clark died of asphyxiation by carbon monoxide poisoning, according to a preliminary report by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Jones is charged with second-degree murder with intent (not premeditated); second-degree murder without intent while committing a felony; and first-degree arson (dwelling).

The fire was reported at 4:41 p.m. Monday. Firefighters from Carsonville and Wolf Lake were dispatched to the scene.

According to court records:

When Becker County investigators arrived, they found two people, Julaine Butcher and Austin Sip, both repeatedly yelling “Shalonda,” in the direction of the house.

Flames were coming from the window and door openings and the interior of the house was fully engulfed in flames.

The investigators learned that Jones could be found  at a house a short distance away.

One investigator immediately went there, and found Jones sitting on a couch, covered in what appeared to be black soot. His hair was singed and the jacket he was wearing appeared to be burned. He also had a large blister on his right cheek and ear and smelled heavily of smoke.

The investigator asked Jones where he could find Shalonda Clark. Jones said she was in the burning residence on the couch. He allegedly admitted starting the fire while she was sleeping.

He was arrested and taken to the Becker County Jail.

A body was later recovered from the house and sent to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy to determine the identification of the person and the cause of death.

The investigation is being conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the White Earth Police Department and the Becker County Sheriff’s Office.

Jones has several prior convictions on his record, including fifth-degree domestic assault, fourth-degree intentional damage to property, and fifth-degree controlled substance crime.

On Tuesday, an order of detention was signed by Becker County District Judge Joe Evans. A first court date for Jones has not yet been set.

Nate Bowe, Detroit Lakes Tribune

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