2 arson cases, 1 fatal, against Jeannette man to be tried together
Two arson cases against a Jeannette man, including one in which an elderly woman died, will be tried together, a Westmoreland County judge ruled this week.
Brian Rendon, 35, had sought stand trial separately on the accusations.
Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio said the fires occurred within two days of each other, making them part of the same act.
“Both fires were allegedly started in a similar manner by defendant and due to the same motive,” she wrote in an opinion filed Wednesday. “The … witnesses are mostly identical and the lead investigator and fire marshal are the same in each case. The Commonwealth also intends to present the testimony of defendant’s maintenance man in both cases.”
Rendon allegedly set fire to a couch in front of his home on April 7, 2018. Two days later, he is accused of starting a fire that burned row houses on South Seventh Street.
Shirley Kocherhans, 87, was found dead inside her row house. A woman who lived with her was injured. About a dozen residents were left homeless. Rendon is facing a homicide count in that case, in addition to numerous other offenses, including arson, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.
His attorneys had argued that Rendon should be awarded two trials because the accusations are separate acts and evidence of each would not be admissible during trial in the other case. Bilik-DeFazio disagreed.
The cases are tentatively set for trial in November.
In July, Rendon was deemed competent to stand trial.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .