Woman faces trial for Roscoe arson

| Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 1:01 a.m.

A former Roscoe woman accused of starting a fire – then helping her neighbors out of the burning apartment building – will stand trial.

Handcuffed and wearing orange jail attire, Tina M. Koskoski, 46, of 124 Prospect Ave., Apt. A, Charleroi, did not testify at her preliminary hearing Wednesday in Washington County Central Court.

Magisterial District Judge Larry Hopkins ordered her to stand trial on all counts, including arson, for the June 22 fire at the Central Apartments, 600 Furlong Ave., Roscoe.

Koskoski faces the following felony charges: 85 counts of causing or risking catastrophe, one count of criminal mischief and four counts of arson and related offenses.

She faces 85 misdemeanor counts of recklessly endangering another person for allegedly placing the tenants and the first responders in danger, and four counts of simple assault for the injuries to two tenants and two firefighters.

Koskoski listened somberly as RESA police officers Mark Stewart and Al Marcy described the chaotic scene the night of the fire.

“There was smoke rolling out of the windows, flames shooting out the side,” Stewart, RESA's officer-in-charge, told Washington County Assistant District Attorney John Paul Lewis.

Stewart told Koskoski's attorney, Chief Public Defender Glenn Alterio, the 85 counts of recklessly endangering another person were based on an estimate of the number of tenants who lived in the complex and first responders at the scene.

“There were probably a lot more (firefighters) there,” Stewart said.

State police Deputy Fire Marshal Trooper S.L. Jones testified the fire was raging when he arrived about an hour after it started.

Jones said he was able to determine the fire began in the basement of the three-story building.

However, he couldn't pinpoint the point of origin, because the first floor had collapsed, making the structure unsafe. He ruled the fire undetermined that night, and estimated damage at about $200,000.

“I came to that figure because the structure was close to being destroyed or needed completely renovated,” Jones testified.

The Roscoe apartment complex, owned by Edward T. Rex, has since been condemned by the borough's code enforcement officer because of damage from the June fire and an electric-related fire Nov. 14.

The investigation into the June fire resumed in October after an insurance investigator determined it was safe to go inside the boarded-up building.

State police Deputy Fire Marshal Steven Thompson testified that's when he took over the case.

Thompson said he began the investigation “all over again,” and determined the fire started on a mattress in a basement storage bin. He ruled the cause arson.

Thompson testified he wanted to question Koskoski, because she was the one who “found the fire.”

Koskoski has been charged and convicted in connection with fires in Charleroi.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Koskoski told Thompson and Marcy during an Oct. 18 interview she went into the basement to check the electric meter after she noticed bathroom lights in her apartment flickering.

About an hour into the interview, Koskoski allegedly confessed she set the mattress on fire because she was frustrated over “nosey neighbors” and purported drug use in the building. She allegedly used a lighter to start the blaze, Thompson said.

Tenants Larry Hines and Robert Rohland, as well as firefighters Jessie Stringer and Marcy, were injured during the fire. About 30 tenants escaped unharmed. Several other firefighters required medical treatment for heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.

Marcy, who also serves as a Stockdale firefighter, battled the blaze that night, which took four hours to contain the fire.

One dog and seven cats died in the fire.

Following the hearing, Koskoski was returned to the Washington County Correctional Facility in lieu of $50,000 bond.

Alterio said Koskoski requested credit for time served in jail as she pleaded guilty to an Oct. 28 citation for dangerous burning in Charleroi.

Charleroi Regional Police issued Koskoski the summary nontraffic citation in connection with a Sept. 24 fire at 710 Crest Ave.

That fire had been extinguished by the time firefighters responded. A section of wooden lattice had caught fire on a rear porch of the two-story residence housing three families.

Koskoski's criminal history includes charges for other fires.

Then known as Tina Flynn, she pleaded guilty on Oct. 18, 2007, to two counts of dangerous burning for a fire in Charleroi. She was sentenced to five years probation by Washington County Judge Janet Moschetta Bell.

She was charged by Charleroi police for her alleged roles in fires on July, 18, 2006, and March 1, 2007. Arson charges were withdrawn in those cases.

Stacy Wolford is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-684-2640 or at swolford@tribweb.com.

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