Mahanoy City arson defendant waives right to preliminary hearing, counsel

·2 min read

Aug. 5—SHENANDOAH — A 69-year-old Mahanoy City man charged with setting fire to his neighbor's house last month waived his right to both legal counsel and a preliminary hearing Thursday.

Vanardi Legrand, of 410 W. Spruce St., is charged with one felony count each of arson-danger of death or personal injury, arson — inhabited building, criminal mischief and risking a catastrophe; and one misdemeanor count each of recklessly endangering another person and disorderly conduct.

Speaking with Magisterial District Judge Anthony J. Kilker by videoconference from the Schuylkill County Prison, Legrand said he wants to represent himself and wants the charges against him heard in Schuylkill County Court.

"Yes, sir," Legrand said when asked by Kilker if waiving the right to an attorney and a preliminary hearing was his decision.

Mahanoy City police Patrolman Derek Weicikosky charged Legrand with setting a fire to the front porch of a home at 406 W. Spruce St. around 12:30 a.m. July 14.

Weicikosky said he received a call reporting the arson and spoke to Elijah Lopinto, owner of 406 W. Spruce St., who obtained security camera video from another neighbor that showed Legrand lighting the fire.

The officer said he watched the video that showed Legrand sitting in a black sedan in front of his residence around 12:30 a.m. and then exiting the vehicle.

In the video, Legrand walks east on West Spruce Street, stops in front of 406 W. Spruce St. and then appears to light a flame on the front porch, according to Weicikosky.

At that point, Legrand gets back in his car and watches as the flames grow, said Weicikosky, adding that the fire continued for hours until burning itself out.

At the time the fire was set, a friend of Lopinto's — Robert Beard — was inside the home, the officer said.

As part of the investigation, Weicikosky said a photo lineup with seven random men around the same age as Legrand was shown to Lopinto, Beard and three neighbors, who identified Legrand as the man responsible for the fire.

After setting the fire, Legrand fled and was believed to have been living in his 2011 Ford Focus, police said.

Damage caused by the fire totaled in excess of $5,000.

Legrand was taken into custody on July 28, arraigned by Kilker and committed to prison, unable to post $50,000 straight cash bail.