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Suspect apologizes for fireworks booth fire


Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]

A second man accused of burning down the Havre Jaycees fireworks booth has sent a letter to the editor of the Havre Daily News apologizing for burning the booth, despite all three accused men pleading not guilty in state District Court in Havre. “I just ask for your forgiveness and apologize to the communi ty and to the Havre Jaycees,” Lester Skramstad wrote in a letter received by the Havre Daily News Monday. Skramstad, 18, Charles Stratton, 20, and Anthony Groce, 18, are Accused of breaking into the Jaycees fireworks booth on June 30, filling a car with fireworks from the stand and later throwing lit road flares into the stand, burning it and its remaining contents to the ground. Stratton has been released on his own recognizance to the supervision of his parents. Skramstad, who has a bond reduction motion pending, and Groce both were in custody this morning at the Hill County Detention Center on $20,000 bonds. The three pleaded not guilty July 24 to felony charges of arson or arson by accountability, burglary and theft. They are scheduled for a hearing Sept. 9 in which their trial is likely to be scheduled. The fire raised questions about the future of the Jaycees Fourth of July public fireworks display, which the service organization has been putting on for decades. Proceeds of the sale of the fireworks at the booth are used to pay for the annual public display. The generosity of the community saved the 2009 display, with donations of cash and fireworks for sale by the Jaycees paying for this year's show. The Jaycees are still planning and raising funds for how large a show they will put on in 2010, and what facility they will use to sell fireworks in the future. Representatives said that if enough people attend the Monday, Aug. 24, concert being sponsored by the service organization, featuring Great Falls band Voodoo Cadillac opening for the hard-rock headliner Rhino Bucket, some of the proceeds could help with the new booth. Groce, Skrams tad and Stratton were arrested after a two-day investigation by the Havre Fire Department and the Hill County Sheriff's Office following the fire. Investigators used eyewitness testimony, statements from friends and acquaintances of the three defendants and a video taken by a surveillance camera at the Holiday Village Mall to place the three accused men at the scene. Officers also recovered a large amount of fireworks for the Jaycees when arresting the three defendants, the charging document reports.

Here is what the letters said

Stratton letter To the City of Havre: I, Charles S. Stratton, apologize to our humble community for the Jaycees fireworks stand. I vow to pay back my debt to our town. What we did was heinous and irresponsible. All of us will regret what we did for the rest of our lives. And, to the Jaycee members, I'm so sorry. Once I am out I'll do all I can to fix what has been lost. Sincerely, Charles S. Stratton

Skramstad letter Dear Havre community, I feel horrible about what we did. I feel guilty beyond words, God believe me, I do. I just ask for your forgiveness and apologize to the communi ty and to the Havre Jaycees. I ask that you accept my apology. I plan on doing anything I can to pay back the cost of the damages. I am asking for a second chance to make things right. I am sorry. Sincerely, Lester Skramstad


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