Shamokin woman charged with arson in Shenandoah fire
SHENANDOAH - A 28-year-old Shamokin woman was jailed Friday charged by Shenandoah police with lighting a Jan. 19 fire in the borough that destroyed two homes and damaged three others.
The investigation determined Chevonne M. Martinson, who lists an address of 410 N. Shamokin St., was residing at the home and was responsible for lighting the blaze.
Patrolman Michael O'Neill charged Martinson with one felony count each of arson-endangering persons, arson-inhabited buildings or structures and causing or risking a catastrophe; three felony counts each of arson and related offenses and criminal mischief; nine misdemeanor counts of recklessly endangering another person; and one misdemeanor count of arson and related offenses.
Martinson was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge David A. Plachko, Port Carbon, and committed to Schuylkill County Prison unable to post $25,000 straight cash bail.
Firefighters were called to the 432 W. Centre St. home of Richard and Ann Morton about 3:35 a.m. and found heavy fire to the rear of the building.
Flames spread causing heavy damage to unoccupied homes at 434 and 430 W. Centre St. while an unoccupied home at 436 W. Centre St. sustained minimal smoke damage.
A home at 438 W. Centre St. occupied by Leonard Selvocki also sustained minimal smoke damage.
O'Neill said his investigation into the fire began after all of the occupants were evacuated from the home during the initial minutes of the blaze.
He said Ann Morton reported being in bed about 3:15 a.m. but unable to fall asleep because of arguing and items being smashed in an adjoining bedroom occupied by Martinson and her boyfriend, Luis Ramos.
Morton said she was able to fall asleep when the fighting stopped but was awakened a short time later when Ramos ran into her bedroom screaming there was a fire.
Morton told O'Neill that Martinson and Ramos fled the scene because Ramos has an outstanding warrant against him. The officer said Morton told him that prior to leaving, Martinson told her the fire started when she flicked a cigarette on the back, second-floor porch.
Morton also told police that on previous occasions, Martinson said she would burn the house down, O'Neill said.
Several hours later, about 5:30 a.m., O'Neill said he was approached by Vannessa Crawley who also lived at the home.
The woman said that the day before the fire, on Jan. 18, Martinson was infuriated and screaming about lighting items on fire.
O'Neill said Crawley told him that after the fire, she received a message from Martinson on Facebook saying she could stay with her and Ramos at 222 W. Coal St., the home of Michael Leger and Donna Schlauch.
O'Neill said he and Patrolman Tyler Dissinger went to that home, took Ramos into custody on the warrant and interviewed Martinson in connection with the fire.
Martinson said she was living in the southern most bedroom on the second floor of the home that had a door to the back porch and was arguing with Ramos over money. The woman said after the fighting ended, she flicked the cigarette onto the back porch that she described as being cluttered with debris and garbage, O'Neill said.
The officer said Martinson reported leaving the bedroom and going to see other occupants of the home when, about 20 minutes later, Ramos ran out of the bedroom screaming about a fire.
She said Ramos left the house and went to the Coal Street home and that she followed him a short time later.
O'Neill said he asked Martinson if there was a possibility the fire started in the bedroom but the woman said the fire started outside on the porch due to her cigarette.
On Jan. 22, O'Neill said he spoke with owner Richard Morton who could not be interviewed the day of the fire due to his need for medical treatment.
Richard Morton, he said, related he was in a "dead sleep" before being awakened by Martinson and Ramos fighting and smashing items inside their room.
Minutes later, Richard Morton said Ramos ran into his room screaming "everybody get up, there's a fire ... I threw it on the back porch and tried to put it out," O'Neill said in his criminal complaint filed with Plachko.
Richard Morton said he tried to extinguish the fire but the smoke was intense, O'Neill said, adding that the man told him that prior to the fire Martinson said, on numerous occasions, "I'll burn your house down and no one will have a place to stay."
On Tuesday, O'Neill said he met with Leger and Crawley who said they wanted to provide additional information about the fire.
The officer said Leger told him that on the day of the fire, Martinson arrived at his home irate saying she was angry at her female partner, who was not identified, and admitted burning her belongings and then trying to put out the fire. Leger said Martinson then went into another room to see Crawley.
O'Neill said Crawley told him that when Martinson entered the room, she began bragging about smashing perfume bottles and that she lit pictures and clothing that belonged to her female partner on fire.
Assisting in the investigation were state police fire marshal Trooper John Burns of the Frackville station and members of the Schuylkill County District Attorney's Office.
Martinson will now have to appear for a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Anthony J. Kilker, Shenandoah.