Two days after a fire claimed a south Bismarck home, the homeowner's fiance has been arrested and charged with arson.

Spencer Norton, 36, of Bismarck, is the suspect. Bismarck Police investigated after fire officials found the blaze to be suspicious in nature.

Court documents say video footage from 4:30 a.m. Tuesday shows a light in a garage window begin to grow and flicker less than a minute after homeowner Yvette Howell left the home for a taxi, joined by Norton seconds after the flickering light.

Fifteen minutes later, a neighbor reportedly woke up to a crackling sound and saw smoke coming from Howell's home.

Bismarck Fire Department officials determined the fire's cause to a transient ignition source in the garage.

Police arrested Norton Wednesday evening and booked him at the Burleigh-Morton County Detention Center.

Court documents say Howell and her ex-partner own the home, which entered foreclosure two weeks ago.

Howell and Norton moved to a Bismarck hotel after the fire, which claimed Howell's cat. Her three dogs survived.

"Well, let's see, my fiance is in jail accused of burning our house down and didn't do it, so I'm not doing so well," Howell said late Thursday.

Her home sustained heavy fire and smoke damage throughout its main floor and garage. 

Norton is held pending $25,000 cash bond. He is to have no contact with Howell.

He is also charged with felony burglary from last month, when he allegedly entered a woman's home less than a mile from Howell's residence and tried to start a vehicle in the garage there.

In an email to the Bismarck Tribune after his arrest last month, Howell said Norton was seeking warmth on a cold, rainy night.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or


Crime and Courts Reporter