Last week, a mother and daughter were devastated over the loss of the Merrifield home they were renting that was destroyed by fire.
This week, the mother and daughter are in jail facing felony drug charges.
Kellie Rae Townley, 42, and her daughter, Latisha Marie Townley, 23, were both charged Tuesday in Crow Wing District Court for fifth degree possession of schedule 1, 2, 3, 4 — not small amount of marijuana, a subsequent conviction for both women; and possession of drug paraphernalia. Latisha also was charged with storing meth paraphernalia in the presence of a child.
The Townleys were renting a small rambler home on 21892 Crow Wing County Road 3 in Merrifield that was lost to fire on Jan. 30. The Nisswa Fire Department responded with 30 firefighters, along with about eight firefighters each from the Brainerd and Mission Township fire departments.
The Townleys, along with Kellie’s fiance and Latisha's 18-month-old daughter, were in the home at the time of the fire. The Townleys told the Dispatch that the toddler alerted them of the fire while Kellie was sleeping.
Nisswa Fire Chief Richard Geike said he has no reason to believe the fire was set intentionally. Geike said the fire appeared to have started above the kitchen where the furnace room was located. The fire burned mostly in the attic but did make its way down to the main floor of the house.
“Nothing looks suspicious to me at all with this fire,” said Geike. “ ... It’s just an unfortunate event.”
The Red Cross helped the family and provided them a hotel to stay in for shelter. According to the Baxter Police Department, officers arrested the women at 1:46 a.m. Saturday at Rodeway Inn, 7836 Fairview Road, after a report of a disturbance. Latisha’s daughter was taken into emergency care.
The Townleys were each charged separately and Kellie Townley’s next court appearance will be at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 12. Latisha Townley will be seen Thursday for a probation violation hearing.
According to the criminal complaint against Kellie Townley:
• Baxter officers were called to the hotel that someone in Room 104 had called 911 and that the line was open with no talking and it sounded like an argument was occurring in the room.
• An officer arrived and prior getting to the room, an unknown male was in the hall and told him that people in the room were yelling and screaming and that he was getting ready to call the police. The officer did not hear any yelling.
• A male allowed the officer in the room and said that Kellie was in the bathroom.
• Another officer arrived on scene and she attempted to make contact with Kellie. It took Kellie numerous minutes to come out of the bathroom to speak to the officer.
• The male told the officer that Kellie was involved in an argument and that they both were stressed out since their house just burned down. The officer went to the bathroom and looked inside and he noticed a purse sitting between the shower and the toilet and the side pocket was wide open. In plain view, the officer observed a glass object with a stem and a bowl in the side pocket. In the glass stem and bowl was a white residue of suspected methamphetamine.
• The officer advised Kellie about the methamphetamine pipe in the bathroom and asked whose name the room was in. Kellie stated the room was registered in her name. The officer then asked for consent to search the room for additional drugs/paraphernalia. During the search, the officer also located a used hypodermic needle in the bathroom garbage. Kellie was placed under arrest and transported to jail.
• The officer went back to police department where he field tested the substance in the stem of the pipe and it tested positive for methamphetamine.
• Kellie has prior felony convictions for controlled substance crimes.
According to the criminal complaint against Latisha Townley:
• Officers were advised by hotel staff that Kellie’s daughter and granddaughter were staying in Room 109. Officers knew that Latisha had active warrants against her. Officer knocked on the door multiple times and announced that they had a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. The officer could see movement in the room but no one answered the door. Hotel staff provided a room key card and officers opened the door, which was chain locked. A male in the room opened the door and he stated that there was child in the bathtub. The officer recognized the child as Latisha’s daughter who was sleeping in the bathtub with a blanket.
• Latisha requested her coat and prior to giving it to the investigator, he searched the pockets and felt a round small tube with sharp edges. The investigator removed the item, which was a glass pipe that had white residue and burn markings. In the same pocket was a small plastic clear bag with small trace amounts of white crystals. The pipe and the crystals both tested positive for methamphetamine.
• Latisha, who has a prior felony conviction for a controlled substance, was arrested for her warrants.
When the Townley’s lost all their belongings in the home they rented, various funds were set up to help the family.
Tammy Anderson, owner and manager of the Wings Cafe at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, where Kellie Townley works, made a collection box available for people to drop off items for the family. After learning about the Townley’s criminal activities, Anderson decided to take the donated items that were collected for the family and give them back to the community either through Dorcas, the Clothes Closet in Crosslake or the Womens Center of Mid-Minnesota in Brainerd.
Editor’s note: Donations will not be accepted for victims of a house fire in Merrifield.
The victim and her daughter have been charged for criminal activity.