Bethlehem strip mall fire was arson, cops say. Suspect in

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UPDATE: George E. Stokes, 54, of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, was arraigned Aug. 31 in advance of District Decide Daniel Corpora on felony arson and similar counts in the Oct. 15, 2020, hearth at Lion’s Den Barber Store, 1862 Stefko Blvd. in Bethlehem, in accordance to court docket data. He was despatched to Northampton County Prison in lieu of $75,000 bail and faces a preliminary hearing scheduled Sept. 20 in advance of District Choose Nicholas Englesson.

First Short article: A hearth that closely destroyed a barbershop in the Bethlehem strip mall household to Valley Farm Marketplace was arson, authorities reported Wednesday.

It occurred last Oct. 15 at the Lion’s Den Barber Shop, 1862 Stefko Blvd. That business enterprise sustained large destruction, and the hearth despatched smoke into adjoining firms that included the two the Valley market place and a Laundromat.

The suspect, a 54-12 months-old Bethlehem male, was not straight away in custody Wednesday and was wished on an arrest warrant, Northampton County District Lawyer Terry Houck’s place of work mentioned in a information release.

The Bethlehem Hearth Office extinguished the hearth and instantly opened an investigation, led by metropolis fireplace Marshal Craig Baer and police Detective Sgt. Christopher Beebe and assisted by the U.S. Bureau of Liquor, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to court documents.

Investigators identified “separate spots of origin, and parts the place liquids were poured on the ground, walls and electrical sockets,” the launch states. “Liquids gathered from the scene were determined as Medium Petroleum Distillate, Toluene, Methyl Ethyl Ketone and a Gentle Petroleum Distillate — all ignitable liquids.”

Investigators also “reported puddles of unknown liquid in diverse regions of the shop, in addition to gallon-sizing ‘paint cans’ made up of an not known liquid” and “open gallon ‘paint cans’ made up of get hold of cement, polyurethane, at the entrance of some salon chairs,” in accordance to the release.

Suspect George E. Stokes, of the 1100 block of Linden Road, told investigators on Oct. 20 that he experienced poured polyurethane in distinctive spots to let it distribute, the DA’s workplace claims. Then he stated he plugged in a vacuum and “heard a loud spark, which ignited the polyurethane on the floor.

“Stokes mentioned he seen the fire soon soon after observing the sparks and mentioned the outlet he plugged the vacuum into had to be defective. He instructed law enforcement, ‘I acquire entire accountability, it wasn’t on intent,’” police wrote in court documents.

Authorities, nonetheless, imagine the hearth was intentional, the DA’s business says.

An personnel interviewed by investigators explained a “weird” atmosphere in the barber shop the working day of the fireplace, with Stokes and the proprietor “talking pretty privately to just about every other, so as no one particular else could pay attention to what they stated,” courtroom data say.

Stokes also went all over telling workforce “to make certain all of their personal belongings had been taken out from the store just before they left for the working day,” court records say, “because he experienced to clean the shop.”

The worker then observed an unfamiliar male who’d been in the store that working day driving the wheel of a automobile in the parking lot, court information say.

Right after seeing that gentleman move involving distinct parking spaces, the staff reported he observed “an orange glow coming from within the shop” that he then observed was a fireplace, court documents say. Fearing Stokes was inside of, the employee unlocked the door, yelled for Stokes without the need of an answer and made use of a hearth extinguisher to test unsuccessfully to douse the rising hearth, in accordance to law enforcement.

The witness reportedly then observed Stokes arise from all-around the constructing and get into the automobile with the mysterious guy.

Courtroom information do not suggest anybody else faces expenses in the hearth.

Stokes is charged with arson-inhabited setting up or framework, arson-intent of destroying creating, arson-far more than $5,000 of hurt, risking catastrophe and felony mischief. All 5 counts are felonies. He also faces a misdemeanor demand of reckless endangerment.

A connect with for comment did not go by to the selection shown for the Lion’s Den Barber Shop, and no phone range could be identified for either the owner or Stokes.

Once Stokes is in custody, he will be arraigned in advance of a district choose who will set bail. A preliminary listening to will then be scheduled to determine if there is sufficient evidence to mail the expenses toward demo in Northampton County Courtroom.

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Kurt Bresswein could be reached at [email protected].

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