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Affidavit: Overbeck confessed to other Big Run area fires

August 17, 2011

Anthony Overbeck

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Big Run firefighter who was arrested and charged with setting an Aug. 9 fire along Pennsylvania Avenue in Big Run has been charged in most of the other arson and undetermined fires that occurred in the Big Run area within the past year, including the Little Canada and Big Run Carpet fires.

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed by Cpl. Charles E. Gross, Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police Troop C fire marshal, Anthony Overbeck, 18, was interviewed at 12:20 a.m. Aug. 10 at the Big Run Fire Hall by Tpr. Julie Clark, fire marshal, and ATF Agent Jason Wick.

The affidavit said Overbeck confessed to setting a fire around midnight June 19 at Big Run Carpet, Thompson Street.

According to the affidavit, Overbeck said he poured gas into a bottle, which he got from a metal container at his house on Union Street, Big Run.

Overbeck said it was around 11 p.m. or midnight when he walked to the Big Run Carpet building, where he went to the back corner and found a gap in the siding on the left side of the door. He then poured the gas in a large gap in the wall so that it would have been inside the wall, and then he lit a piece of paper with a lighter and dropped it on the gas, the affidavit said.

He then returned to his house and responded when the Big Run fire company was dispatched.

According to police, damage to the store owned by Jeffrey London was estimated at $500,000 and destroyed the building. The cause of the fire was direct flame to an ignitable liquid, most likely gasoline.

In other affidavits:

• Police said Overbeck confessed to starting both fires at a house owned by James L. Stellabuto, Caroline Street, Big Run.

According to the affidavit, the first fire began between 2 and 2:47 a.m. July 26 and was reported by Stellabuto, who owned the home.

Police said Stellabuto fell asleep between 9 and 10 p.m. in his living room chair, awoke periodically and heard a beeping noise that he couldn’t identify.

Stellabuto then realized it was the smoke detector located in a spare room next to the garage, and he thought it was a battery going bad, the affidavit said.

Police said Stellabuto smelled smoke, opened the garage door, was blasted with smoke and realized his house was on fire.

Stellabuto said he went out the front door of his house and to a neighbor’s house, where no one was home. He went to another neighbor, who called 911, on Mitchell Avenue.

According to police, Overbeck said he walked to the back side of the garage near the corner and held a lighter to a shutter, catching it on fire. The flames then climbed up the shutter to the siding. Overbeck said he then returned to his house.

Overbeck said that he did not use an ignitable liquid to start that fire, the affidavit said.

Police said Overbeck believed there was no one inside the house, but he could not give any reason why he believed that.

According to police, Overbeck then said he didn’t have anything against Stellabuto and, in fact, had visited his house during past Halloweens, and he liked Stellabuto because he handed out “the big-sized candy bars.”

Overbeck said he chose Stellabuto’s house because it was away from the main part of town. He did not respond with the fire department to the scene, the affidavit said.

According to police, the cause was determined to be direct flame to a window shutter next to a garage window and the wall.

Police said Overbeck also confessed to setting the second fire at Stellabuto’s house sometime between 1 and 2:10 a.m. July 30.

According to police, Overbeck said he walked to the rear of the house and found a long, black piece of plastic touching the ground and covering a window after the first fire.

Overbeck said he lit the lower right-hand corner of the plastic with a lighter and returned to his house. He did not respond to the scene with the fire department on that call either, the affidavit said.

According to police, Overbeck said he did not use an ignitable liquid to accelerate the fire, and he knew that no one was living in the structure at the time of the second fire. The cause was determined to be direct flame that ignited the plastic sheeting covering the window and the siding.

• The one fire that was not ruled arson was a blaze at 12:27 a.m. Feb. 18 at the former Little Canada Bar, Filtering Plant Road, Gaskill Township, that had been converted to a house.

According to police, Overbeck said he knew the structure was vacant because the occupants were evicted, and his sister was friends with the former occupants.

Overbeck said he walked to the structure from his residence alone with a pry bar and water bottle filled with gasoline from a tractor at his house.

According to the affidavit, Overbeck said he used the pry bar to open the front door, took a piece of paper from his pocket and lit it with a lighter, dropping it on a couch.

Police said at first, Overbeck said he threw the pry bar into the weeds but later said the same pry bar was used to enter the Pennsylvania Avenue house Aug. 8.

Overbeck said he walked home and waited for the fire tones before responding with the fire company.

According to police, the owner, Mark Stern, said he didn’t know Overbeck and did not have permission to enter the structure or be on the property.

The cause was listed as undetermined but incendiary in nature.

• The affidavit said Overbeck also confessed to setting a fire at an abandoned house April 24 on Hartzfeld Road, Gaskill Township.

Police said Robert Brown, a firefighter with the Big Run Fire Company, said Overbeck came to his house and told him that he “wanted a fire,” and they walked to Hartzfeld Road to a structure in the woods.

Brown said they walked around to the back side of the dilapidated structure, owned by Bridget Harriger, and Overbeck went inside through an open door, carrying a small milk jug containing a liquid.

Brown, who was outside, said Overbeck poured the liquid on the floor, couch and stairs.

Police said Brown turned around because he heard a car coming. When he turned back, Overbeck was running out of the structure, and there was fire.

Both Brown and Overbeck ran the same way they came, the affidavit said. Prior to returning to Brown’s house near the War Memorial, and the fire tones went off.

In Overbeck’s version, he said he went to the back side of the house to a doorway, but there was no door.

Overbeck said he then entered the house and poured gasoline on the first floor in the kitchen and in the living room, the affidavit said. He then said he bent down and lit the gas with a lighter, which almost burned his face from the flash of gasoline.

According to police, Brown and Overbeck walked toward Brown’s house and waited for the fire tones to go off and responded with the fire company.

• Police said Overbeck also admitted starting two brush fires, one at 10:19 p.m. March 26 at a grassy/wooded area on the east side of of the railroad tracks off Alhoe Park Road, Gaskill Township.

Police said the second brush fire occurred around 6:36 p.m. April 23 at a grassy/wooded area on the west side of the railroad tracks off of Alhoe Park Road, Gaskill Township.

Overbeck is being held in lieu of $200,000 bail in the Jefferson County jail, with his preliminary hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday before District Judge Douglas Chambers.

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