Police: Suspect admits setting fires in house

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Police said early Wednesday morning, an 18-year-old Big Run teen described to them how he set two fires in an unoccupied residence Monday evening, the latest of several fires classified as arson over the last few months.

Wednesday morning, Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police reported the arrest of Anthony Overbeck, 18, Big Run, who faces charges of arson and related offenses; burglary; and criminal trespass pertaining to the fire that occurred between 11 p.m. Aug. 8 and 12:12 a.m. Aug. 9.

Overbeck is a member of the Big Run Area Volunteer Fire Company.
Police said the PSP Fire Marshal Unit and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating the origin and cause of the fire that severely damaged the unoccupied residence, which is owned by Gilbert Mouritzen of San Diego, Calif.

PSP Fire Marshal Cpl. Charles E. Gross classified both fires as incendiary.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Aug. 9, Gross investigated the origin and cause for fire at the two-story, wood framed/brick veneer, 49-by-33 foot residence at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Union Street, Big Run. The fire was called in by a previous tenant, Jennifer Jones.

Dispatched by Jefferson County 911, firefighters from Big Run, Sykesville and Punxsutawney found two separate fires that occurred in two separate rooms of the basement, the first in a southern room in the center of the basement on the floor, ignited with cardboard boxes and wood located on the floor.

The cause of the fire was a direct flame by a lighter or matches to the cardboard boxes, the affidavit said. The fire was still smoldering when the fire department arrived, and there was severe thermal damage to the interior of the room.

The second fire originated in the northern room of the basement, where the door was open, and there was severe charring and moderate consumption to the lower edge of the door, the affidavit said.

Under the edge of the door was a plastic bottle with protected and charred napkins inside, with some type of liquid substance absorbed into the napkins.

The second fire had burned itself out upon firefighters’ arrival, the affidavit said.

Also, the affidavit said the first-floor wooden door off the porch in the southeast section revealed several pry marks on the door jamb.
The lock was separated from the door and on the floor in the room.

Also, there was a double-ended, flat pry bar on windowsill at the base of the stairwell in the basement, the affidavit said.

Tuesday, the affidavit said Gross interviewed Jones at the scene, who said she and others had moved out of the house in early July, but had left some household items.

Jones told Gross an acquaintance needed a mattress and box springs for an emergency foster child placement, so she stopped at the house to retrieve the items, but could not get in the rear door, so she opened the basement bilco doors, the affidavit said.

When she opened them, there was smoke coming from the basement, the affidavit said. She then went went down to the basement door and pushed it open.

Jones then went up the stairs to the kitchen because she thought she might have left a burner on the stove on, but found that the knobs were turned off, the affidavit said.

Jones then went to the wood door and found it open, the affidavit said.
When Jones went to the rear outside porch door to let her aquaintance into the house, both realized there was too much heat on the floor and too much smoke, the affidavit said. Jones then called 911.

At 12:20 p.m. Wednesday, Gross and ATF Agent, Jason Wick interviewed Overbeck at the Big Run fire station, where he was read his Miranda rights.

The affidavit said Overbeck then told Gross and Wick that around 11 p.m. Aug. 8, he left his house carrying a lighter, a plastic bottle packed with napkins soaked in vegetable oil and a pry bar.

He went to the rear of the residence through the unlocked white interior door and pried open the wooden door using the pry bar, separating the lock from the door, the affidavit said.

After going into the basement, Overbeck then used a lighter to light a cardboard box on fire in the southern center room of the basement, then entered the northern room and placed the plastic bottle under the bottom of the door and lit a napkin, the affidavit said.

The affidavit said after returning to his house on Union Street, Overback fell and cut his cheek, probably on an animal cage, then left again and went to the East Main Street residence of Robert Brown, who took Overbeck to Punxsutawney Area Hospital for treatment.

After returning to his house, Overbeck told Brown he could smell smoke, the affidavit said. He then helped Brown locate the source of the smell, but did not enter the house.

The affidavit said Brown then called Big Run Chief Todd Peace, who told Brown and Overbeck to travel to the fire station.

Peace had members of the department look for a fire in the location, but none was found, the affidavit said, and Overbeck never told anyone about the fire.

Overbeck was arraigned by District Judge David Inzana, who set bail at $200,000 and committed Overbeck to the Jefferson County jail.

Police were planning a press conference this morning to reveal further details.