ShareThis Page

Addiction is defense in arson case

| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 7:21 p.m.

A Jeannette man was addicted to marijuana and alcohol when he set three fires in the city, including one that injured a firefighter, according to defense attorney Harry Smail.

Roger William Adair, 27, admitted on Thursday to starting the blazes in abandoned buildings.

“I know what I did was wrong, I realize that now,” Adair told Judge Debra Pezze. “I was foolish in what I did.”

Adair was sentenced to serve 18 to 36 months in the Westmoreland County Prison for his role in three arsons in a string of 20 between 2008 and 2012 that put Jeannette residents on edge until six suspects were arrested in September.

Adair became the fourth suspect to plead guilty in the last two weeks.

Adair pleaded guilty to setting fires on Sept. 3, 2009, along Chambers Avenue; Feb. 3, 2012, at 324 Chestnut St., where a firefighter was injured, and Nov. 18, 2010, at 118 N. Fifth St.

Judge Al Bell gave Smail, who is court-appointed, permission in March to spend up to $3,000 to hire a private investigator to bolster a possible alibi defense for Adair, who claimed he was living in New Kensington when the fires were set.

The investigator determined it would be difficult to support Adair's claim, Smail said Thursday.

Adair's drug and alcohol use “affected his conduct ... and his bad decisions that he made,” Smail said.

City fireman James Swartz suffered a laceration to his neck from shattered glass when a window burst during the Chestnut Street fire.

Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro read a letter from Swartz, who described the sight of blood spurting from his neck.

“I honestly thought I was going to die,” Swartz wrote. “I was not allowed to return to work or even drive a car for the next two weeks.”

Swartz was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital for treatment and still has a scar.

“Arson is not a victimless crime,” he wrote. “We pray the defendants will learn from their mistakes.”

Investigators found marijuana at Adair's home when they arrested him, Ciaramitaro said.

Pezze ordered Adair to complete a drug and alcohol evaluation.

Also found at Adair's home was a “large jar of lighters, which he indicated had special importance to him,” Ciaramitaro said.

The six suspects were charged in nine of the 20 arsons. Adair is the fifth suspect to be sentenced.

In the other cases:

• John Raymond Horne, 22, of Jeannette was sentenced Tuesday to 18 to 36 months in connection with four fires, including the Chestnut Street blaze.

• Christopher Allen Jones, 23, of Manor, was sentenced on April 29 to three years of intensive supervision and six months under house arrest with electronic monitoring in a 2008 fire.

• Horne's half-brother, Jeffrey Robert Tierney Jr., 24, of Jeannette, was sentenced April 29 to serve one year less a day to two years less a day in prison and three years' probation in connection with four fires.

• A juvenile charged in one fire began a fire-setting rehabilitation program in October.

The final suspect is Adair's brother, Richard Allen Adair Jr., 28, of Jeannette, who faces arson charges for three fires:

• Aug. 24, 2010, at 212 N. Fifth St.

• Oct. 19, 2011, at 416 S. Sixth St.

• Nov. 18, 2010, at 118 N. Fifth St.

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.