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Jeannette arson suspects' mother defends sons

| Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, 12:56 a.m.

The mother of two Jeannette arson suspects said her sons voluntarily submitted to polygraph tests and gave federal agents their fingerprints because they were not involved in a series of fires that have plagued the city since 2008.

Michele Horne said she and her son, John R. Horne, 21, were together on Dec. 22, 2011 when they saw the start of one of four fires he is accused of setting. She said her son called 911 to report the blaze, then they watched the fire with onlookers, reporters and photographers.

“He didn't have anything to do with that,” she said.

According to police affidavits, Horne admitted his involvement in the fires and implicated his brother and another suspect, Roger Adair, 26.

A preliminary hearing for Horne was continued Thursday by District Judge Joseph DeMarchis. Horne now faces an Oct. 12 hearing with four of the five other suspects.

Horne is charged with arson, conspiracy, risking a catastrophe and criminal trespass, according to the charges.

Michele Horne's other son, Jeffrey Tierney, 23, is charged, along with Christopher Jones, 22, and Richard Adair, 27. A 17-year-old juvenile faces a hearing in juvenile court.

She said her sons were interrogated “four or five times” by ATF agents. She said agents would not tell her sons the results of the polygraph tests, which are used as an investigative tool and are not admissible as evidence during a trial.

The ATF joined Jeannette police in their investigation in February, and the fires stopped in March, police said.

Horne said her sons both work at DeNunzio's restaurant in Jeannette. She is trying to obtain their work schedules from 2008 to the present “that will prove their innocence.

“That man they have in there is innocent,” she said, referring to Horne. “They (ATF) claim to have a witness. They claim to have fingerprints. They don't got diddly.”

Several of Horne's friends and family members went to the district judge's office Thursday to support him. A cousin, Robert Pasparage, said he found out only recently that he and Horne are related, though they have been friends for 14 years.

“I don't think Johnny done any of this,” he said.

Horne is charged with starting fires in 2009 on Chambers Avenue, in the 2011 blaze on rear Division Street and two earlier this year on Division and Chestnut streets, according to the criminal complaint. The six suspects are charged with setting only nine of 20 fires. ATF agents said they believe the defendants were involved in the other blazes as well but do not have enough evidence to charge them.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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