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NEW CASTLE Officials: Arsonist is behind seven fires



Published: Tue, April 30, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Charles and Debbie Miller have been the victims in three of the fires.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Authorities believe an arsonist is at work in the Croton Avenue area.

There have been seven fires listed as arson or suspicious in nature in a four or five block area in just over a week, said Fire Chief James Donston.

"There's somebody running around up there," said Police Chief Victor Cubellis when asked if the fires appeared to be the work of an arsonist. "We need somebody to come forward and give us some good information."

Cubellis said he plans to meet with the Lawrence County district attorney's Arson Task Force and work with the state police fire marshal's office in an effort to find the person or people responsible.

Meanwhile, anyone with information about any of the fires should contact his office or Lt. Thomas Sansone in the detective bureau, he said.

Three hit same family

One family has been the victim in three of the fires.

Charles and Debbie Miller lost the house they rented at 123 N. Walnut St. on April 18 to a fire that was started in a pile of rubble outside the house in the early-morning hours. The house was owned by Miller's uncle, Harvey Miller, and was a total loss, Donston said. The Millers were home at the time but got out safely, he said.

On Thursday, Miller told authorities he was out walking his dog shortly before 11 p.m. when a neighbor spotted flames coming from the rental home Miller had just moved into that day at 708 Erie St.

That house was also a total loss and was ruled arson, Donston said.

Debbie Miller's car, a 1990 Mercury Cougar, was the target of an arsonist around 8:30 p.m. Saturday night.

Donston said it was parked on the street in front of 128 N. Walnut St. when the fire was spotted. Firefighters found a coffee can containing a candle sitting on the front seat where the fire started, he said.

The car was a total loss, he said.

Other cases

Earlier that day, there was a fire in a two-car garage owned by Dena Capece at 211 N. Scott St. shortly after 1 a.m., Donston said.

That blaze was also believed to be an arson, he said, noting all four walls of the frame structure collapsed and it was a total loss.

Nicole Rossi of 108 S. Crawford Place wasn't home when fire broke out in her rented home around 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Witnesses told firefighters they saw someone start the fire in the kitchen area.

The blaze spread up a stairway into the second floor before it could be brought under control, Donston said.

The first two arsons were in vacant houses at 701-703, which housed apartments, and 707 Croton Ave. on April 23.

Both of those structures had been condemned but hadn't been torn down because they were tied up in a bankruptcy case, Donston said.

They were owned by two Sharon men.




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