Accused arsonist held in Jeannette fires

Renatta Signorini
| Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, 1:10 p.m.

A Jeannette man laughed in court Friday while Judge Joseph DeMarchis cited risk to the community as he refused to reduce a $125,000 bond for the accused arsonist.

Since August 2008, there have been at least 21 arsons in Jeannette, according to investigators. They began in vacant buildings until they escalated to those where people lived.

Five men and a teenage boy were arrested in September for their alleged involvement in 10 arsons between Aug. 29, 2008 and last March 28.

“The matters all are extremely serious and affect the welfare of the city in general,” along with first responders, DeMarchis said, as he refused to lower bond for Roger William Adair, 27.

“I think the bond is appropriate to the nature of these charges to protect the community,” DeMarchis said.

Adair was returned to the Westmoreland County Prison after being ordered to stand trial for two fires and then being charged with a third.

DeMarchis ordered him to stand trial for a Sept. 3, 2009, fire at 509-511 Chambers Ave. and a Feb. 3, 2012, blaze at 324 Chestnut St. following a preliminary hearing.

Charges were filed Friday against Adair for a third fire, bringing the arson count up to 21.

Investigators never disclosed publicly that the blaze on Nov. 18, 2010, at 118 N. Fifth St. was suspicious.

Jeffrey Robert Tierney, 24, of Jeannette, was ordered to stand trial in four fires after a separate hearing Friday before DeMarchis. Suspects John Raymond Horne, 21, of Jeannette, and Christopher Allen Jones, 22, of Manor, waived their rights to a hearing.

Richard Allen Adair Jr. 28, of Jeannette, previously waived his right to a hearing. A 17-year-old male was adjudicated delinquent in a fire at the abandoned Monsour Medical Center in July 2011.

Roger Adair smiled and nodded his head throughout his preliminary hearing, particularly when Special Agent Robert Manns testified that Horne implicated him in the two fires. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives aided city police in the investigation.

Horne told investigators that he, Roger Adair and Tierney set the Sept. 3, 2009, fire along Chambers Avenue, Mann testified. Investigators said a point of origin and source could not be determined because the vacant building was heavily damaged.

Horne said he and Roger Adair started the Feb. 3, 2012, fire at another vacant building on Chestnut Street, according to police. It started on the first floor.

Firefighter James Swartz testified that as he knelt down outside the house to grab his helmet, a pane of glass fell and struck him on the back.

“When it shattered, I felt a piece go into my neck,” Swartz testified. “I knew it was a bad wound.”

He received seven staples, four stitches and has a visible scar.

Tierney faces charges in fires set in four vacant buildings. None of the six buildings addressed Friday had working utilities, investigators testified.

Actors in a movie about rapper Eminem, “8 Mile,” set fire to an abandoned building, which allegedly inspired the Aug. 29, 2008, arson at 603-621 Chambers Avenue, Tierney told Wick. Tierney allegedly worked with Jones during that fire, Wick testified.

“Seeing that scene ... caused them to find a vacant house in Jeannette and set fire to that structure,” Wick testified.

Tierney is charged in connection with fires on:

• Aug. 29, 2008, at 603-621 Chambers Avenue.

• Sept. 3, 2009, at 509-511 Chambers Avenue.

• Nov. 22, 2011, at 420 Division St. Rear.

• Feb. 16, 2012, at 420 Division St.

Tierney allegedly admitted to Wick he was involved in the first blaze. Charges in the other three resulted from statements from witnesses.

Jeannette resident Michael Weyandt said he overheard Tierney bragging after the September 2009 fire.

“He said, ‘Do you like my handiwork?'” while pointing toward the burning building, Weyandt testified.

Horne, Tierney's half brother, allegedly implicated him to Manns. In the November 2011 and February 2012 fires, Horne and Tierney used gas and tree branches to set two fires at the same Division Street structure, Manns testified about Horne's statement.

When the defense attempted to call Horne as a witness, attorney Matthew Schmizzi said Horne would “assert his Fifth Amendment right” and would not testify.

The five men are charged with arson, criminal conspiracy, criminal trespass and risking a catastrophe. Roger Adair and Horne are charged with aggravated assault because Swartz was injured.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374.

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