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Lansford arson suspect waives hearing

Published February 21. 2013 05:03PM

A Lansford man who allegedly set two homes in the borough on fire, allegedly in retaliation from having a physical confrontation with a juvenile, waived a preliminary hearing yesterday on charges related to the arson.

Erick Stephen Mack, 32, of West Patterson Street, had the hearing scheduled before District Judge Casimir Kosciolek in Lansford. He faced 19 counts, waiving all of them to Carbon County Court.

The charges include six counts of arson danger of death or bodily injury, one count of risking a catastrophe, one count of retaliation against victim or witness, six counts of recklessly endangering another person, one count of unsworn falsification to authorities, two counts of criminal mischief damaging property intentionally, recklessly, or negligently; and two counts of failure to control.

Mack is currently incarcerated in the Carbon County Correctional Facility in lieu of $100,000 straight bail.

The charges were filed following a situation last Oct. 19.

At about 7:20 p.m. on that date, Lansford borough police officers Chris Ondrus and Joshua Tom were dispatched to a complaint of a disturbance at 334 W. Patterson St. The officers were advised Mack had been involved in a physical confrontation with a juvenile. As a result, Mack was going to be issued a citation through the mail.

At about 10:10 p.m. the same date, fire departments and other emergency response personnel were summoned to 332 W. Patterson St. for a dwelling fire. The home is located in a block of wood frame, double homes.

When firefighters arrived, they found the fire to be in an alleyway between 330 and 332 W. Patterson St., and already both dwellings had begun burning.

According to reports, the initial inspection by borough fire officials Ron Hood, Fire Chief Joe Cannon, and Joe Greco found that the fire started on the exterior of the homes, and appeared to have originated on or next to 332 W. Patterson St.

Local officials sought assistance in their investigation from a state police fire marshal.

The resident/owner of 332 W. Patterson St., Giovanni Casuccio, was home when the fire occurred. The other dwelling was a rental property owned by Eliane Giltner.

Investigators said the fire started on a side porch. They found a melted plastic gasoline can, with the lid found a distance from it.

As investigators worked, the affidavit says, they noticed Mack standing on his front porch, dressed in camouflage. Mack went inside his residence and changed clothing.

When police initially interviewed Mack, he denied knowledge of what happened. He told police he had gone to his mother's house in Summit Hill at 10 p.m. and had only just returned.

A written statement given to police by Mack also stated he had been at his mother's house.

Officer Todd Woodward of the Summit Hill Police Department interviewed Mack's mother, the police records state. The mother provided a written statement that she had visited her son in Lansford between 5 and 5:30 p.m. and hadn't seen the son since that time.

On Oct. 21, Mack was again interviewed by police. This time, Mack gave a written statement, saying he had a confrontation with the neighbors, then went to the Turkey Hill Minit Market in Tamaqua where he purchased a gas can and gasoline.

The affidavit says Mack parked his car near the Panther Valley School District Stadium, walked to his neighbor's house, poured gas on the home, and set it on fire.

He then walked away. He stayed about a block away for about a half-hour before returning home.

Mack included in his statement that he had given false information to police when first interviewed, but now the knowledge that he had committed the crime was bothering him, resulting in the confession.

Lansford Police Detective Jack Soberick wrote in the affidavit that, based on his investigation, as well as the investigations conducted by the state police fire marshal, led him to conclude that Mack, after becoming angry with disruptive juvenile neighbors, planned to retaliate against occupants of 332 W. Patterson St.

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