Gail Schneider, 44, maintains she acted poorly toward pair but didn't start fire at building.

Last updated: April 23. 2013 11:47PM - 4824 Views

Gail Schneider
Gail Schneider
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WILKES-BARRE — Gail Schneider testified that she didn't start the fire.
She doesn't know who did.
What she does know, she said Tuesday at her trial on charges she torched the historical Lantern Lane apartment and business complex in Conyngham in September 2010, is that she was scared. She also testified she felt intimidated by investigating state troopers.
“It was a nightmare interrogation,” Schneider, 44, of Berwick, said after admitting she was in the area at a local bar the night of the fire. “I was being accused (of setting the fire) over and over. (Troopers) were screaming and yelling in my face. It was very intimidating.”
Schneider took the stand in the sixth day of her trial on six counts of arson and one count of criminal mischief in a case in which prosecutors say she deliberately set fire to the South Main Street building, causing $1.3 million in damage.
Attorneys in the case will present their closing arguments today before jurors are instructed on the law by county Judge David Lupas and sent to deliberate.
Prosecutors allege Schneider set the fire in retaliation for being evicted from the building a year before.
Schneider admitted Tuesday what she did to her neighbor, Nicole Buak, while they were both tenants at the building was wrong; she carved the word “die” into Buak's door and scratched her car. “I was wrong in what I did,” Schneider said. “I was upset. I paid restitution (to Buak and landlord Kenneth Temborski).”
After the incident, she was evicted from her Lantern Lane apartment, and Temborski kept a security deposit because of damage allegedly done to the apartment, including dog feces left on walls.
She filed a civil complaint against him with a district judge and lost.
“I did say, 'This isn't over yet,' ” Schneider said she told Temborski after the hearing regarding the landlord/tenant dispute. “Because I was thinking about appealing (the judge's decision).”
But, she said she decided it was a waste of her time and money, and dropped the issue. “I moved on with my life,” Schneider said, noting she hadn't had any contact with Temborski or Buak since then.
She moved to Berwick, with the intention of opening her Sybertsville-based dog grooming business, but those plans ultimately fell through, leading to another civil lawsuit she filed against a potential landlord for her business. She eventually got back half her rent money in that case.
Schneider testified she previously worked as a document specialist for 15 years at a law firm in Manhattan before deciding to make a career change.
Schneider said she was approached by police about the fire at the Lantern Lane complex building and agreed to speak with them. The conversation started off cordial, but then took an ugly turn, she testified.
“I got the impression they were gonna accuse me of (setting this fire),” Schneider said. “I was (at the state police barracks) all day.” At one point, Schneider said, a trooper threw a file at her.
Schneider said she tried to leave an interview room, but was “backed down” into her seat by up to seven troopers who would come in and out of the room. “They gave me a slice of pizza and a glass of water when everything was said and done.”
Schneider was the last witness to testify Tuesday. Assistant District Attorney Shannon Crake called the last of her witnesses in the morning, including a forensic computer analyst who searched two of Schneider's computers.
Results of searches revealed Schneider had looked up the words “arson” and “lighter fluid,” the the phrase “how to blow up a car” and had sent a text message to a friend stating “paybacks are a bitch” regarding the incident with Temborski.
Schneider said she searched the word “arson” to get information after the fire had happened because she was concerned — she had lived there, knew the people who lived there and wanted to know what happened.
She doesn't know why she would have searched the words “lighter fluid,” she testified, and searched “how to blow up a car” because she was watching a movie and wanted to see if the way they blew up a car in the film could actually be done.
Schneider explained that the “paybacks are a bitch” text is being taken out of context. She said she meant she would sue Temborski for evicting her, which she eventually did.

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