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State police investigator says NK fire was intentionally set

Chuck Biedka
| Thursday, Feb. 14, 2002

GREENSBURG: A state police fire investigator testified Wednesday that a 1993 New Kensington house blaze was intentionally set.

Prosecutors are trying to persuade a jury that Michael Dennis Moran, 36, set fire to his unfinished log home to get insurance money. Moran, 36, of Valencia is charged with arson.

Deputy State Police Fire Marshal Leslie Myers said the fire started about the same time in three places within about a 15-foot triangle. He said he believes a chemical was used, but a state crime laboratory did not identify a substance.

Myers said the only sign of forced entry into the home was caused by firefighters, and police believe Moran was the only person with a key.

On Tuesday, Moran's brother, John Applegate, said Moran told him he used a wood stain to start the fires which burned through the floor in several places.

Myers disagreed with an insurance adjuster who thought the fire smoldered during an eight-hour period. Myers said the fire fiercely burned for perhaps 30 minutes until the oxygen was depleted in the living room. The fire was smoldering when New Kensington Company No. 2 firefighters arrived.

In response to a question from defense attorney Tom Ceraso, Myers agreed that linseed oil and other common chemicals have been known to spontaneously combust. When Ceraso asked if there was evidence that linseed oil was present, Myers replied no.

State police laboratory supervisor Leonard McCoy testified linseed oil wasn't found in samples taken from the fire. He said specific tests that weren't requested by Myers might have shown its presence and might disprove Myers' opinion about how the fire started.

At the end of the trial day, New Kensington police Detective Sgt. Dennis Marsili said he interrogated Moran at the state police office in Butler Township where Moran was being held on charges of theft and receiving stolen property in another case.

Marsili is expected to be on the witness stand this morning when the trial starts its third day.

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