Arson counts against Cass Twp. man held for Schuylkill County Court

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Jul. 15—TREMONT — A Cass Twp. man charged with setting Christmas decorations on fire to rid his home of people he believed were tormenting his mother and stepfather had most counts against him held for court following a preliminary hearing Thursday.

Brian P. Chapman, 41, of 34 E. Elk Lane, currently an inmate at the Schuylkill County Prison, appeared before Magisterial District Judge David J. Rossi via videoconference.

Chapman, who told police he was stressed out and using methamphetamine at the time of his arrest, was charged by state police fire marshal Trooper John F. Burns of the Frackville station.

The charges Chapman faced were felony counts of aggravated arson-person present inside a property, arson-danger of death or personal injury, reckless burning or exploding, risking a catastrophe and arson endangering property-reckless endangerment of inhabited buildings.

At Thursday's hearing, prosecutors withdrew the charge of aggravated arson-person present, but Rossi ruled that enough evidence was presented to hold the remaining offenses.

During the brief hearing, Chapman was represented by Assistant Public Defender William Burke while Assistant District Attorney Shelby G. Hostetter prosecuted the case.

Burns was the only person to testify, saying the information he filed in his affidavit was correct.

In that paperwork, Burns said Chapman lit the fire at the Elk Lane home outside Minersville around 9:45 p.m. Feb. 15. Although the fire was contained to the basement, Burns said, the remainder of the home sustained smoke, heat and water damage.

Burns said potential accidental ignition sources were eliminated and the fire ruled incendiary, originating near a cardboard box containing an artificial Christmas tree and decorations.

Chapman later admitted he intentionally lit the fire with a disposable cigarette lighter.

He told police he thought someone was in the house when he got home and that his mother and stepfather were being tortured. He thought the fire would eradicate the unwanted visitors.

Chapman remains in Schuylkill County Prison on $75,000 straight cash bail set by Rossi at the time of his arrest and arraignment in June.