Paynesville, Minnesota, man sentenced to four years, $20,000 in restitution for burglaries

Sep. 10—OLIVIA

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, Minnesota, man was sentenced to four concurrent prison terms of 48 months after he pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree burglary for crimes charged in 2021.

Lee Joseph Fuchs-Thielen, 37, was charged in

Renville County District Court

for a string of burglaries from March 16 to April 9, 2021.

He was sentenced June 27 by Judge Laurence Stratton and was also ordered to pay about $20,437 in restitution to the victims of the burglaries.

According to a June 29 news release on the conviction from Renville County Attorney Kelsie Kingstrom, Fuchs-Thielen stated his motivation for the burglaries was to support his drug addiction at the time.

His attorney had sought a dispositional departure — a less severe sentence that in state guidelines — due to his cooperation with law enforcement and his amenability to treatment and probation. According to a supporting memorandum by a dispositional advisor, after his arrest for the burglaries in 2021, Fuchs-Thielen had successfully completed treatment and maintained sobriety.

The departure was not granted. He is incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater, and, according to the Department of Corrections, his expected release date is Jan. 26, 2026.

According to the criminal complaint, a briefcase and papers were found March 17, 2021 along Renville County Road 2 and were later determined to belong to a residence in rural Franklin where a burglary had occurred earlier that day.

The inner door of the garage appeared to have been pried open by a hammer, allowing entry to the home. An office inside the home had clearly been disturbed. Doors, drawers, computer screens, and papers were all seen in a state of disarray by officers, according to the complaint, and the bedroom also appeared disturbed.

The occupants confirmed that a safe containing cash and a diamond ring were missing from the residence.

While the investigation at the residence was ongoing, a second burglary was reported at a nearby residence.

Law enforcement conducted a walk-through at the second home and saw a few cabinets had been opened. After residents of the home took inventory of the area, they stated multiple jars containing an unknown amount of change had been removed.

According to the complaint, three witnesses reported seeing a vehicle in the area of the first home described as a red vehicle, believed to be a Chevrolet Cobalt.

On April 1, 2021, a rural Olivia resident returned to their home to find the door to their residence wide open.

According to the complaint, it appeared a tool had been used to pry the garage door open to gain access. Someone had rummaged through four bedrooms, the kitchen, basement, and an outbuilding containing an RV.

A Black Hills jewelry case was reported missing along with an uniquely identifiable box, and a tin labeled with the resident's name. It was believed the burglary occurred between March 16 and April 1, 2021.

Just before 9 p.m. on April 9, 2021, a homeowner called law enforcement to report a suspicious red Chevrolet Cobalt parked in their driveway after they returned to their rural Bird Island home. However, the vehicle left before law enforcement arrived.

Again, the main door of the home had been forced open. Various items had appeared to have moved, according to the complaint. A safe in the home had sustained damage from an apparent failed attempt at opening it. A change jar described as a "mini grain silo with a decal" was also reported missing from the home.

A day later, Upper Sioux Community law enforcement officers reported they had detained Fuchs-Thielen and secured a vehicle matching the description of the suspect vehicle.

A search of the vehicle yielded multiple pry bars showing use and paint transfer matching the safe from the fourth residence. The grain silo change jar was also found in the vehicle along with a Black Hills jewelry case, a tin with a resident's name, and the identifiable box from the Olivia residence.

On April 11, 2021, Fuchs-Thielen spoke with law enforcement and said he had entered all four homes and taken items from them. He also indicated that he had committed similar burglaries in Todd and Stearns counties.

Fuchs-Thielen's public criminal history shows a single misdemeanor conviction in 2010 in Stearns County for driving while impaired before the string of burglaries.