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Potential witnesses attend Anthony Overbeck’s waived preliminary hearing

September 13, 2011

A preliminary hearing for Anthony Overbeck (left) was waived by his attorney, John Ingros, Tuesday at District Judge Douglas Chambers’ office in Punxsutawney. Here, Overbeck is escorted back to the sheriff’s transport van by Deputy Sheriff Mark Humes. (Photo by Larry McGuire/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — A preliminary hearing for the former Big Run firefighter who was arrested and charged with setting numerous arson fires that occurred in the Big Run area within the past year was waived Tuesday at District Judge Douglas Chambers’ office in Punxsutawney.

Anthony Overbeck, 18, Big Run, and his attorney, Jefferson County Public Defender John Ingros, were in attendance Tuesday for his scheduled preliminary hearing.

Two hours of meetings were held Tuesday with potential witnesses, including Big Run Fire Chief Todd Peace; fire victim James Stellabuto, whose house on Caroline Street was set on fire twice; and Jeffrey London, owner of Big Run Carpet whose store was destroyed by an arson fire.

Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police said Overbeck was a member of the Big Run Fire Department when he was charged with the Aug. 9 fire at an unoccupied residence on Pennsylvania Avenue in Big Run. Police said Overbeck has confessed to setting several other fires dating back to 2010.

He was charged with arson and related offenses — a felony one and two; burglary — a felony two; and criminal trespass, a felony two.

Overbeck had belonged to the fire department since only January.

Neither Tabia Cole, Jefferson County assistant district attorney, nor Ingros would comment on Overbeck’s case.

In addition to the Pennsylvania Avenue fire, Overbeck confessed to setting a fire June 19 at Big Run Carpet, Thompson Street, Big Run. He also confessed to starting both fires in late July at a house owned by Stellabuto, Caroline Street.

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

In addition, Overbeck confessed to setting a fire at an abandoned house April 24 on Hartzfeld Road, Gaskill Township, which was the only instance when another person — Robert Brown, also a Big Run firefighter — was present when Overbeck set a fire.

Police said Overbeck admitted to starting two brush fires, one at 10:19 p.m. March 26 at a grassy/wooded area on the east side of the railroad tracks off of Alhoe Park Road, Gaskill Township, the other around 6:36 p.m. April 23 at a grass/wooded area on the west side of the railroad tracks off of Alhoe Park Road, Gaskill Township.

With Overbeck’s preliminary hearing waived, the next steps in the process include two criminal conferences, scheduled for Nov. 2 and Dec. 1, between the DA and defense counsel.

Jury selection for Overbeck’s trial is scheduled for Jan. 9.

Overbeck is being held in lieu of $400,000 bail in the Jefferson County jail.

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