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Man testifies arcade owner paid him to torch business

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Thursday, March 14, 2002
 

A McDonald man testified that he set a fire at a Peters Township video arcade after the owner offered him money and future employment if he would burn the building.

George Charles Klezia IV, 19, of Highland Drive waived his right to a preliminary hearing on a variety of arson charges Wednesday before District Justice Marjorie Lee Teagarden in Washington County Central Court.

Klezia then testified at a preliminary hearing for Jeffrey Scott Starr, owner of The Starrcade Inc., a business that he opened about nine months ago in a former Pizza Hut building at Route 19 and McMurray Road.

Peters Township police have charged Starr, 32, of Broadway Street, Wexford, and Klezia with arson that placed people in danger of death or bodily injury, arson to collect an insurance settlement, conspiracy to commit arson and reckless endangerment in connection with a Feb. 6 fire that destroyed the business.

Klezia testified that he brought a half-gallon of gasoline in a plastic bottle to the arcade at 3:30 that morning. He poured the gasoline over a wooden sill above a door and around the wooden door frame, then lit a rag soaked with gasoline and tossed it at the door frame before he ran away.

Starr promised Klezia a job at a new business that Starr intended to build, Klezia testified, and he promised that Klezia's amateur band would be able to play there. Starr said he intended to use the insurance money from The Starrcade to start the new venture, Klezia said.

Starr, through Mark F. Morrison, his attorney, pleaded not guilty to all charges. Morrison asked that the reckless endangerment charge be dismissed, but Teagarden held all the charges against Starr for court.

Morrison said because the case is about "who is telling the truth," he "fully intends to have a jury trial. Any time credibility is an issue, a jury needs to decide."

Klezia's attorney, Kevin Zinski, said of his client, "He obviously made a mistake … he did something stupid. He'll do the right thing from here on in."

Washington County Assistant District Attorney Joe Schwerha said he was very thankful for a very good investigation by Peters police Det. Sgt. Gary Orosz and Trooper Charles Frey, state police fire marshal.

Also, he thanked the firefighters.

"It's sad that people have to put their lives at risk in situations like this, and I'm glad there are crimes to address them," Schwerha said. No firefighters were hurt at the fire scene.

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