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Yvette Howell's south Bismarck home was claimed by arson in early November 2017. Her fiance, Spencer Norton, is charged in connection to the blaze. 

Two weeks before her trial date, the Bismarck homeowner accused of attempting to delete cellphone evidence related to the arson of her house has taken a plea agreement.

South Central District Judge Sonna Anderson accepted the plea deal Thursday between Yvette Howell, defense attorney Alex Kelsch and Burleigh County Assistant State’s Attorney Justin Schwarz. Howell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor tampering with physical evidence but, if she fulfills the terms of a yearlong deferred imposition of sentence, she will see the crime wiped off her record.

Her sentence includes a year of unsupervised probation with no criminal violations, $360 in court fees, a $200 fine and fingerprinting.

"If she does that and no new offenses, pays off the fine and fees, it would be taken off her record at the end of that 360 days," Schwarz said.

Howell declined to comment when reached Friday. Kelsch did not return two phone calls to his office.

Howell’s fiance, 36-year-old Spencer Norton, remains jailed pending trial in May for felony arson related to the Nov. 7 house fire in south Bismarck. He has pleaded not guilty.

Last month, someone wrote “Spencer is innocent” with spray paint on the front of Howell’s fire-damaged home.

Norton also is charged with felony terrorizing for threatening to harm the police detective who investigated the house fire. 

He was acquitted at trial last month for an unrelated burglary charge.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or


Crime and Courts Reporter