Lehighton arson suspect waives hearing
A Lehighton man charged with setting his sister's house on fire waived his preliminary hearing yesterday.
Russell Young, 44, of 231 Carbon St., was scheduled for a hearing on the charges before District Judge Edward M. Lewis of Jim Thorpe.
Young, who is currently being lodged in the Carbon County Correctional Facility in lieu of $200,000 bail, arrived at the office of Lewis by a Lehighton police cruiser with Officer Ryan Kennedy and was wearing a blue prison uniform.
He was represented by Public Defender Joseph Perelli, who announced that Young opted to waive the hearing. Defendants in criminal cases have the option to have a public hearing after their arrest or waiving the case to court for trial.
The charges against Young stem from a series of events that occurred on the morning of Jan. 30 in Lehighton.
Young had been residing with his mother at the time. His mother was a patient in a hospital and has since passed away.
On Jan. 30, shortly before 7 a.m., the mother's house caught fire.
It is alleged that while the mother's house was burning, Young walked down an alley about a block and used matches and lighter fluid to ignite the back porch of his sister's residence. When he arrived at his sister's house, he reportedly banged on her back porch door, which resulted in her calling the police.
No charges have been filed against Young regarding the fire at his mother's residence. Officials said a state police fire marshal is assisting Lehighton police and fire officials in the investigation of that fire and the investigation hasn't been completed.
Extensive damage was done to the first floor of that dwelling.
Firefighters quickly extinguished the rear porch fire at his sister's residence.
Young has been charged with arson-danger or death of bodily injury, arson - inhabited building or structure, arson - reckless place persons danger, and arson - person property exceeding $5,000. All are felony charges.
Patrolman Brian H. Biechy of the Lehighton Police Department, the investigating officer, alleges that he was busy at the dwelling fire on Carbon Street on the morning of Jan. 30 when the call came in about the fire at the home of Young's sister in the 300 block of North Third Street.
According to the affidavit filed by Biechy, Officer Tim Wuttke of the Nesquehoning Police Department and Chief of Police Tom Beltz of the Franklin Township Police Department responded to the Third Street fire. The affidavit says, "Officer Wuttke stated that there was a fire on scene on the back porch area and that they had one male in custody."
Chief Beltz extinguished the fire, the affidavit says, and Young was in the back yard of the residence. The affidavit says, "In the process of being taken into custody, the defendant was witnessed throwing a book of matches which he was holding. The matches were recovered by officers on scene and are similar to the matches located and recovered on the back porch area. Also noticed by Chief Beltz was an odor of lighter fluid on the defendant."
The court document adds, "Upon inspection of the back porch area of 357 N. Third St., there was a strong odor of lighter fluid and in the immediate area of the fire which Chief Beltz extinguished this officer located several burnt matches. The matches were found placed by each one of the wooden porch supports as well as the main door leading from the porch to the interior of the residence. Found on the porch near the man door were two plastic containers which smelled of lighter fluid and a scepter which the victim stated did not belong to her."
The victim identified Russell as her brother, police said.