BLACKLICK TOWNSHIP — A Strongstown couple was charged with arson Monday in connection with a July house fire in Cambria County.
Judy Ann Frederick, 67, and Elmer Thomas Westover, 59, were arraigned before Ebensburg Magisterial District Judge Frederick S. Creany on numerous felony counts after being served with arrest warrants.
Investigators said Frederick is facing four felony counts of arson for setting the fire and one felony count each of possessing an explosive, criminal mischief, reckless burning or exploding and conspiracy.
Westover is charged with two felony charges of arson and one felony count each of conspiracy, possessing an explosive and reckless burning or exploding.
Both are scheduled for a preliminary hearing Oct. 15.
According to state police at Ebensburg, Fire Marshal Carl Richards investigated the blaze, which occurred around 10:30 p.m. July 21 at a two-story house at 1143 Station Road in Blacklick Township.
Richards determined the fire originated in the first-floor area of the home and was intentionally set, according to court papers. The house also was determined to be a complete loss. There were no injuries.
State police identified the victims as Jay and Nicole Jacobson, of Twin Rocks.
According to a criminal complaint, Frederick is identified as Nicole Jacobson’s mother and Westover as Frederick’s boyfriend.
Jay Jacobson told state police around July 4 he and his wife were having financial difficulties and that the power to the house had been shut off before the fire.
Jacobson also revealed he and his wife had a conversation with Frederick and Westover regarding their finances and Frederick offered “to take care of their problem” by burning down the house, according to the complaint.
Jacobson said he told Frederick “no,” and “they would find another way to get the money.”
Nicole Jacobson told officers July 22, the day after the fire, about a conversation she had with her mother and Jacobson and Westover earlier in the month.
Jacobson told her mother about the stress of the debt in her family, the house and other financial issues, according to the complaint.
She said on the day of the fire she received a call from Frederick between 6 and 6:30 p.m., asking her if the family would be home at all that night.
Jacobson said she and her husband were at the drive-in in Carrolltown when they received a Facebook message telling them their house was on fire.
She said they returned to the house and provided a description of Frederick’s vehicle to police. She said her husband had given it to the couple to use and it was parked up the road on the day of the fire.
According to the complaint, Frederick made statements Aug. 27 that implicated her and Westover for being present at the house and setting the fire July 21.
One communication intercepted by police revealed Frederick “was expecting insurance proceeds to pay off her own delinquent taxes.” And during her calls, Frederick said she would “take the fall for Westover,” to keep him from going back to jail,” the complaint said.
Monday’s arrests are the latest in a number of arson cases in and around Indiana County this year.
Earlier this month, more charges were filed against two volunteer firefighters — Nicholas Leone, 22, of Creekside, and Dylan Dalessio, 19, of Plumville — regarding suspicious fires set at locations in and around the part of the county in the past 14 months.
The two men have a preliminary hearing set for Oct. 15.
A recent overnight shed fire in the Rochester Mills area of North Mahoning Township was ruled an arson. Damage was estimated at $5,000.
In mid-September, Troy James Kromer, 52, of Punxsutawney, waived preliminary hearings on arson and related charges in three fires in North Mahoning Township.
Kromer was charged in an Aug. 12 fire in an unoccupied structure along Coolspring Road, as well as pickup truck fires on Sept. 27, 2018, along Smith Road and in a wooded area between Smith and Coolspring roads on Aug. 30.
No one has yet been charged in the fire that destroyed the Harmony Grove Lutheran Church near Creekside in February.