ATF still investigating Jeannette fatal fire evidence; trial date to be set later |

ATF still investigating Jeannette fatal fire evidence; trial date to be set later

Rich Cholodofsky
Brian Eric Rendon arrives at his preliminary hearing escorted by Westmoreland County sheriff’s deputies on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018. He is accused of setting a fire in Jeannette that killed a woman and injured her granddaughter.

Investigators continue to analyze evidence collected at the scene of a 2018 Jeannette fire in which an elderly woman died.

Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro said Friday in a court hearing for the man accused of setting the April 9 blaze that evidence collected at the scene is still being evaluated by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Maryland.

“They are still testing the evidence and we’re awaiting a report,” Ciaramitaro said, declining to discuss specifics about the items being analyzed.

Brian Rendon, 34, is awaiting trial on charges of criminal homicide, second-degree murder, arson and 14 other offenses in connection with the fire that destroyed a cluster of row homes on South Seventh Street. Shirley Kocherans, 87, was found dead in her apartment. Eleven other residents were left homeless.

Police said Rendon confessed to setting the fatal fire and told investigators he used a lighter and a deodorant can to ignite a place on a porch between two of the homes.

Ciaramitaro said the ATF had previously been enlisted by the district attorney’s office to help investigate a rash of 20 fires set throughout Jeannette from 2008 to 2012. Five adults and one juvenile were convicted for setting nine of those fires.

On Friday, Common Pleas Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio said another court conference would be scheduled in two months to determine when the case against Rendon can be scheduled for trial.

Rendon is being held in jail without bond. He is also facing arson charges related to another fire set in Jeannette two days before the fatal blaze.

Police contend on April 7, Rendon ignited a couch outside of his Railroad Street home.

In January, Common Pleas Judge Tim Krieger ordered Rendon to undergo a mental health evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial for the Railroad Street fire.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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