Homeless man charged with arson
A homeless man faces arson charges after fire broke out at a Lehighton home where he was trespassing early Saturday morning.
According to officials, a lit charcoal grill ignited the home while the suspect, Gary Sharp, was being interrogated at the police department.
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by patrolman Bruce Broyles of the Lehighton Borough Police Department:
Police were dispatched to the 200 block of North Third Street at 3:45 a.m. Saturday for a report of a suspicious person on the porch.
Broyles heard movement on the porch and called out to the man, who identified himself as Sharp. Sharp, 43, said he was permitted to be at the residence.
Broyles asked where the owner was and Sharp said she was in the hospital, but she was allowing him to stay at the home.
Sharp told Broyles he was locked out of the house.
Broyles saw several white waxine bags lying on the porch that possessed the stamp “diesel,” which is known to contain heroin and/or fentanyl.
Sharp admitted the bags were his and he was taken into custody. He had several more of the waxine bags in his jacket pocket.
While escorting Sharp to the police vehicle, Broyles saw an uncapped hypodermic needle lying at the bottom of the porch steps.
Broyles asked Sharp about the needle, but he denied that it belonged to him.
A window to the house was open. Broyles also noticed a torn screen on the screen door.
Broyles could smell the odor of lighter fluid in the area, and he asked Sharp about it. Sharp said he was trying to heat his hands and a piece of pizza by lighting a charcoal grill on the porch.
Sharp was taken to the borough police department, where he showed police text messages from the property owner that said he was no longer permitted to stay on her property.
Police contacted the woman, who was at St. Luke’s Hospital in Lehighton, and she said Sharp was not permitted on the property.
He admitted going into the residence by the open window.
While Sharp was in custody at the borough police department, the residence became fully engulfed in flames and sustained significant damage.
A fire marshal was called to the scene and determined the fire originated on the porch and spread to the home.
The fire marshal determined the cause to be a result of the use of a charcoal grill.
Sharp faces charges of criminal trespass; arson, endangering property; unlawful possession of a controlled substance; and possession of drug paraphernalia.
He is currently incarcerated in the Carbon County Correctional Facility in lieu of $1 million, and is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing at 3 p.m. Jan. 30 before District Judge Eric M. Schrantz of Jim Thorpe.