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Connellsville woman held for court on Bullskin car fire charges

| Saturday, April 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Charges against a Connellsville woman who allegedly set fire to a car in front of her boyfriend's Bullskin home following an argument this year were held for court by District Judge Ronald Haggerty Jr. on Thursday.

Kaitlyn Mckenzie Dewitt, 22, of 2119 Second St. was charged with reckless burning or exploding and two counts of criminal mischief and harassment.

During her preliminary hearing on Thursday, Michael Nicklow, Dewitt's boyfriend, was called to the witness stand first by Fayette County Assistant District Attorney Mark Brooks, who asked him to relate the incident that occurred Feb. 12 and 13.

“I can't remember,” Nicklow said and repeated he did not remember when Brooks asked him again.

“Do you have amnesia?” Brooks asked.

“Yes. Yes, I do,” Nicklow answered.

At that point, Brooks excused himself to speak privately to Nicklow. When they returned, Nicklow took the stand again and began his testimony.

Nicklow said he, Dewitt and his brother Jeremy Nicklow were at the Willow Inn on Route 201 in Dunbar Township on the night of Feb. 12. They left the bar about 9:30 p.m. to pick up his and Dewitt's infant son before heading home. During the ride, Dewitt and Michael Nicklow were arguing. They were sitting in the front seat of the vehicle. Nicklow was driving.

Jeremy Nicklow was in the back seat with the infant.

“She (Dewitt) was hitting him in the face while he was driving, and he was trying to block her,” Nicklow testified during Thursday's hearing.

Nicklow testified that he instructed his brother to pull off the roadway when he had a chance. Michael Nicklow pulled into the Bullskin Sheetz where Jeremy Nicklow pulled Dewitt out of the car and instructed his brother to drive the infant home.

Michael Nicklow drove out of the Sheetz parking lot while Dewitt chased the car, trying to open one of its doors.

About 2 a.m. Feb. 13, the Nicklow brothers were sleeping in their Bullskin home when they heard banging noises on the windows of the residence.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Michael Nicklow opened the door to see Dewitt, who told him she wanted to see her son and if she was not going to be invited in the house, she was going to burn it down. She then punched Nicklow in the face and grabbed his eyeglasses and broke them; he closed the door.

Jeremy Nicklow said he awakened and looked outside to see the car they had driven from The Willow Inn on fire in the driveway.

“I said, ‘Michael, your car's on fire,' ” Jeremy Nicklow said. He testified that he ran to the car to throw water on the engulfed interior with no results.

The Bullskin Township Volunteer Fire Department was called to extinguish the fire.

At one point, Jeremy Nicklow said he saw Dewitt walking around the driveway. He confronted her about the car fire. Nicklow testified that Dewitt told him that she had to stay warm.

“And then she snickered,” Nicklow said.

Dewitt, who chose to represent herself during the preliminary hearing, did not cross-examine the witnesses. She did not take the stand in her defense.

Trooper Robert Broadwater of the state police at Uniontown testified that an investigation was conducted on the car fire and it was determined that arson was the cause. Gasoline was used as an accelerant, he said.

Haggerty held all charges to county court with a formal arraignment set for 9:30 a.m. May 16 in Courtroom Four of the Fayette County Courthouse in Uniontown.

Dewitt is free on $5,000 bond.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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