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Man charged with arson after setting vehicle on fire outside church

An Albrightsville man has been charged with arson after he set his vehicle on fire in the parking lot of a Polk Township church because he wanted to get rid of whatever was in the car making him hear voices.

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed by trooper Zachary Martini of the Pennsylvania State Police - Hazleton barracks in the case against Nicholas Fritz:

At 6:54 p.m. Feb. 21, Polk Township Fire Company was dispatched for a vehicle fire in the parking lot of Cornerstone Community Church located at 388 Polk Township Road, Kunkletown.

The Polk Township Fire Company responded and extinguished the fire.

The PSP - Lehighton barracks were also notified and responded to the scene, and the Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal Unit was requested.

Martini arrived on scene to conduct a vehicle fire examination and interviewed the Polk Township Fire Company chief, who said that upon his arrival it appeared that the fire originated from inside the passenger compartment of the vehicle.

Martini examined the area around the vehicle and found a pipe, consistent with the type of pipe used to smoke meth, lying on the ground near the driver’s side of the vehicle, a purple 1997 Toyota Tercel.

The vehicle was already heavily damaged by the fire, and the interior had been completely destroyed, with the most severe damage on the passenger side toward the front of the vehicle.

The grille and driver’s side headlight had melted or fallen off the vehicle, and the passenger side headlight suffered heat damage, but remained in place.

Further examination of the hood revealed a radial fire pattern which indicates the fire traveled from inside the passenger compartment outward.

A small section of paint remained to the rear of the passenger door, and the paint from the rear passenger window to the front of the vehicle had been completely burned off. The roof of the vehicle had been heavily damaged by the fire.

Martini interviewed Fritz, 30, the owner of the vehicle on Feb. 25.

Fritz said he was there to speak with police, and related he left and was driving alone when he heard voices coming from the car.

Fritz said he pulled off the road into a parking lot to try and remove the cellphone that he thought was in the door.

Fritz said he lit paper on fire and then dropped the paper on the passenger side floor of the car because he wanted to get rid of whatever was in the car making him hear the voices.

Fritz faces charges of arson - danger of death or bodily injury; failure to prevent catastrophe; risking catastrophe; criminal mischief - catastrophe; and escape.

He is currently incarcerated in the Monroe County Prison in lieu of $100,000 monetary bail and scheduled to have a preliminary hearing March 12 before District Judge Colleen Mancuso of Brodheadsville.