Three Arsons; One Accused Arsonist

A Grand Valley man has been charged with three counts of arson and numerous other crimes in connection with fires at three residences and a break-in at a fourth in Southwest Township early Friday morning.

The residences are located on Stoney Hollow Road, Dotyville Road, Flat Road and Sutton Road.

According to Warren-based state police, James Edward Slagter, 67, of Grand Valley is accused of setting fires at three residences and then breaking into a fourth where he poured gasoline, but did not set the fourth house on fire.

Police said two of the residences that burned were total losses, with one residence mostly destroyed, along with a detached garage at that residence.

In additiion to the three counts of arson, a first-degree felony, Slagter was charged with one count of Criminal Attempt for Arson (first-degree felony), two counts of burglary, three counts of criminal mischief (second-degree felony), two counts of criminal trespass (third-degree felony) and three counts of recklessly endangering another person (second-degree misdemeanor).

Police estimate the loss from the arsons at about $400,000.

Slagter was arraigned before District Justice Cynthia Lindemuth and committed to the Warren County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Jeff Presto, assistant chief of the Pleasantville Fire Department, said the first call for a structure fire at 344 Stoney Hollow Road came in at 6:48 a.m.

On their way to that scene, firefighters were told by someone there that there was another fire and “then another one up the road,” Presto said. He said the 4482 Flat Road house was the residence of James Slagter, the accused arsonist, and the Stoney Hollow house was owned by his brother, Robert Slagter. The third house to burn, on Sutton Road, is owned by Dan Wescoat.

In addition to Pleasantville, four other volunteer departments sent men and equipment to the fires: Titusville, Grand Valley, Spartansburg, Tidioute and Garland. Also responding were emergency responders from EmergyCare. West Hickory and placed on standby at their station to cover for Tidioute and Garland.

Presto said no one was home at any of the houses and there were no injuries.

He said James Slagter turned himself in at the station and told authorities that he had broken into a house on Dotyville Road and had spread gasoline inside. Ownership of that house is uncertain.

Firefighters were on the scene until about noon.