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Accused tavern arsonist wants jail confession tossed

| Sunday, April 29, 2012, 5:41 p.m.

The attorney for the man accused of torching a popular Unity tavern earlier this year wants a jailhouse confession barred from evidence when the case goes to trial.

Edgar Clinton Wiltrout is in jail awaiting trial for arson in connection with the fire that destroyed the Sleepy Hollow Tavern on Route 30. Police claim Wiltrout, 55, of Ligonier Township, set fire to the landmark bar and restaurant on Feb. 23 as revenge for the firing of his girlfriend.

Wiltrout's lawyer, Allen Roth, filed court documents Friday asking that a confession his client allegedly gave to another inmate be barred from evidence.

Roth said because the inmate was an unpaid government informant, any statements Wiltrout made to him should be excluded from evidence. Wiltrout contends the confession amounted to a "get out of jail card" for the inmate.

The inmate, Errin Rose, 38, of Belle Vernon, was in the Westmoreland County Prison earlier this year on charges of fleeing apprehension and escape. According to court records, Rose was released in August on nominal bond while he awaits trial.

"Petitioner believes and therefore avers that he should have been advised of his right to counsel prior to making any of the alleged statements to have been made by him in the presence of Errin Rose," Roth wrote.

Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck confirmed yesterday he intends to introduce the confession as evidence against Wiltrout during his arson trial.

"I can't discuss the contents of that confession," Peck said.

Prosecutors called 13 witnesses to testify against Wiltrout at his preliminary hearing earlier this year.

Witnesses said Wiltrout had loaned tavern owner Charles "Chip" Santone $1,000 to help keep the bar afloat. Santone testified he was unable to repay Wiltrout and one time threatened to burn down the bar.

Police said Wiltrout also was upset that Santone had fired his girlfriend.

Wiltrout's arson trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in December.

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