MAHAFFEY – Two people who have been accused of arson after a house fire that happened in Mahaffey this past November were scheduled for preliminary hearings Wednesday.
Raymond C. Geer, 29, of Mahaffey has been charged by the Punxsutawney-based state police with 81 counts of arson/danger of death or bodily injury, F1; causing catastrophe, F1; arson/intent to destroy unoccupied building, F2; reckless burning or exploding, F3; two counts of criminal mischief, F3; risking catastrophe, F3; 81 counts of recklessly endangering another person, M2; and two counts of disorderly conduct, M3.
Catherine A. Burnheimer, 33, of Northern Cambria has also been charged in the case. Both Geer and Burnheimer waived their rights to preliminary hearings Wednesday; both have their bail set at $100,000 monetary.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, at around 2:16 a.m. Nov. 19, 2016, the Mahaffey Fire Department was dispatched to a fire at 215 W. Main St. It was a two-story, wooden-framed house, and it had burned completely to the ground.
The fire was so severe that it also caused a second house fire at the neighboring address at 205 W. Main St. It was also a total loss.
Both houses were unoccupied at the time, but a total of 81 firefighters responded from numerous departments from four counties to battle the two fires.
The fire department requested the assistance of the Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal Unit. Deputy Fire Marshal Cpl. Greg Agosti determined that it was arson, and caused by an open flame or an open flame device.
A month after the fire, two witnesses reported that Burnheimer had told them Geer was responsible for the fire, and that she was the “lookout” while he set the fire.
Geer told police that he believed the fire company would respond fast enough to keep the second house from catching on fire.
He also sent text messages to a family member who lived next door. He allegedly said he was going to set the house on fire and asked that they move any cars to keep them from being damaged.
He admitted to police to developing a plan along with Burnheimer. The original plan intended for the arson to happen days before it did. He allegedly said he ignited a pile of clothes because his “emotions got the best of him.”
The house was previously occupied by his uncle who had died just months prior. He had been incarcerated when his uncle died, and he wasn’t able to say his “goodbyes.”
After setting the fire, Geer and Burnheimer walked back to their residence.