Car from arson site found, FD man arrested

Fort Dodge police have recovered a car that was taken from the scene of an arson fire June 21 and the suspected thief arrested.

Perne R. Struchen, 26, of Fort Dodge, turned himself in to the Webster County Law Enforcement Center Friday morning and was charged with first-degree theft.

The 2005 Toyota Scion that Struchen is accused of stealing from the former church site at 1059 First Ave. N. was recovered in Wright County on Wednesday, according to Fort Dodge Police Chief Tim Carmody.

Struchen was ordered held on $20,000 bond during his initial appearance in Webster County Magistrate Court Friday.

His preliminary hearing is July 3.

Carmody said the response from the community led to the car being found within a matter of days.

“It would likely have taken us much longer to locate the vehicle and apprehend Mr. Struchen without their information,” Carmody said in a written statement Friday. “That confidence and teamwork will continue to strengthen our crime prevention and investigative efforts.”

The investigation into the arson is ongoing, according to Carmody.

The fire at the former church that was housing a business was reported at 1:45 p.m. June 21. Firefighters from Fort Dodge and surrounding communities battled the blaze all afternoon before turning the investigation over to the Fort Dodge Police Department at 9:30 p.m. that night.

The building was declared a total loss.

No one was hurt.

The building housed Ag Advantage, a magazine and marketing business.

The structure was built in the 1880s and served as the Bethlehem Lutheran Church beginning in the early 1900s. The Fort Dodge Church of Christ moved into the building in the 1950s.

The building was sold to Roger Habhab in 1985.

Anyone with information regarding the arson is asked to contact Fort Dodge Police Detective Steve Hanson at 573-1426, the state fire marshal’s arson hotline at (800) 532-1459 or Webster County Crime Stoppers at 573-1444. Tips can also be sent online at wccrimestoppers.com or by texting “LEC” and the tip to 274637.