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Suspected flood zone arsonist arrested


February 19. 2013 7:37PM
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CONYNGHAM TWP. – A man accused of setting a blaze inside a flood-damaged building did so because he had daily urges, state police allege.


Shawn Travis Wilcox, 36, of 38 Main St., Mocanaqua, told state police he called 911 after neighbors spotted the fire he allegedly set inside 4 Main St. on Nov. 12.


State police have been investigating a series of fires in Mocanaqua and nearby Shickshinny since October.


Trooper Ron Jarocha, state police deputy fire marshal, found fires at a double-block house at 15-17 Railroad St., Mocanaqua, on Nov. 19, and at 194 Susquehanna Ave. and a vehicle in front of 151 Canal St., both in Shickshinny, on Nov. 13 were set.


Jarocha also noted a fire at the Main Street house in Mocanaqua on Oct. 6 was arson.


Fires also damaged a house on North Main Street, Shickshinny, on Oct. 12 and a house on Italy Street, Mocanaqua, on Oct. 8.


Wilcox has been charged only for the Nov. 12 fire.


The arrest brought some relief to Shickshinny residents who worried about more fires being set.


John Hower, a Main Street resident who lives near some of the homes that burned, said he feels safer after hearing of Wilcox's arrest.


It's about time somebody got him. It was scary because you didn't know who was behind it, Hower said.


Viola Freed, who lives in the same apartment house as Wilcox, said she didn't know him and didn't even recognize him from his photo on televised reports of his arrest.


Freed noted that only vacant, flood-damaged homes had been targeted for arsons, but she's glad an arrest has been made because she and others were living on edge every time a siren would go off. … The thing going through everyone's minds was who was going to be targeted next.


Matthew Martin, a Glen Lyon resident who said he has been a guest at a Main Street residence in recent months, said Wilcox seemed suspicious.


Everybody on the street talks to each other, but nobody really talked to him. … You'd see him standing there and then you'd see the fire trucks come. … He'd walk his dog up and down the street constantly, more than normal, almost like he was using the dog as an excuse to be outside, Martin said.


Martin said the devastation caused by flooding in September 2011 followed by the series of arsons this year was too much for Mocanaqua and Shickshinny residents, especially around the holidays.


Martin said he was a little nervous before Wilcox's arrest. I just hope they got the right guy. There is some closure, but there's always the possibility there could be someone else.


Wilcox was arraigned by District Judge Rick Cronauer on Tuesday night on charges of arson with intent to destroy an unoccupied building, burglary, reckless burning, criminal mischief and theft. He remained jailed Wednesday at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $125,000 bail.


Arrest papers allege Wilcox admitted he set the fire on Nov. 12 because he liked lighting and watching fires and had urges all the time to light fires and had to fight the urges off on a daily basis.


Wilcox's prior criminal record does not reflect his fire urges.


Court records state when Wilcox lived in Sugar Grove, Warren County, he was charged with theft, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief in 1998, and most recently, harassment in 2010. He also was cited by state police in Warren in March with operating a vehicle illegally on a public street.


State police questioned Wilcox on Nov. 24 about the series of fires in the area. He initially denied any involvement but allegedly talked on Tuesday about his urges to set fires, according to the criminal complaint.


Wilcox claimed he entered the basement of the house after the fire was extinguished and removed a tricycle.


A preliminary hearing is scheduled on Dec. 5.




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