Man Waives Hearings in Arson Cases

William John Devaney Jr. (Provided photo)

William John Devaney Jr. (Provided photo)

CLEARFIELD – A man accused of two arsons in Lawrence Township waived his right to a preliminary hearing in both cases before Magisterial District Judge James Hawkins during Centralized Court on Wednesday at the Clearfield County Jail.

William John Devaney Jr., 43, of Clearfield is facing charges of arson, reckless burning or exploding; criminal mischief; and recklessly endangering another person. In a second case, he’s facing charges of arson; reckless burning or exploding; and criminal mischief. Devaney is incarcerated in lieu of $50,000 bail in each case.

According to the affidavit of probable cause in the first case, at 3:25 a.m. on May 27, 2012, Lawrence Township police received a report of a structure fire at 98 Franks Ln. Clearfield Borough police arrived first and attempted to put out the fire with a car extinguisher. Upon arrival Lawrence Township police supplied a second fire extinguisher. However, police weren’t able to put out the fire and it quickly spread.

At the time, Devaney was outside running around and stating, “It’s going to blow. Get back, it’s going to blow.” Within two minutes of his statements, police reported that two minor explosions occurred. But when asked by police how he knew this, Devaney said, “I never said that.”

A short time later, state police arrived and initiated their investigation, which determined the fire was an incident of arson. Police observed patterns of an accelerant on the door, floor and stairs, which led to a “plausible scenario” that the accelerant was splashed around. As a result, police said when the fire first ignited it appeared fast and large until the accelerant burnt off. Then, police said smaller working fires occurred along the exterior and interior walls that were observed upon arrival to the scene.

When interviewing Devaney, police said he was “evasive” and his story “wasn’t consistent.” He provided police with the clothing he’d been wearing to submit for laboratory testing.

Police interviewed a witness who observed flames through his window. He called 911. When asked, the witness said Devaney was inside the residence at the time he called 911. However, the witness wasn’t certain if Devaney had remained inside the residence during the course of the fire. Devaney told police he’d just arrived home and noticed the fire the same time as the witness.

Then, police said Devaney admitted to making the statements, “it’s going to blow,” which he’d previously denied making.

The fire department reported 25 firefighters and emergency personnel responded to the scene. Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township police assisted at the scene. In addition, police said there were three occupied structures in the immediate area, meaning more than 30 people were endangered by the fire.

Over the course of the investigation, Devaney was interviewed on several occasions. On March 25, he confessed to putting gasoline on the porch of the residence and lighting it. He repeated his confession to police again on March 30.

According to the affidavit of probable cause in the second case, at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 3, 2012, Devaney started a structure fire at 83 Franks Ln.  Lawrence Township police responded to the scene at the fire department’s request and arrived upon it being put out. Police said the trailer had been gutted by the fire.

Police interviewed a resident at 73 Franks Ln. who hadn’t observed anything until hearing a noise at which point he saw the fire. Police interviewed residents at 90 Franks Ln. and one said his 14-year-old boy first observed the fire from their back window. They hadn’t observed anyone in the area prior to the fire. Police went to 104 Franks Ln. where Devaney was sitting outside. When asked about the fire, Devaney said he had been at this residence for hours.

On Oct. 13, 2012, police interview a man who had been at 104 Franks Ln. the night of the fire. He told police that Devaney arrived and immediately changed his clothes, which was a matter of minutes before the fire had been reported.

On March 25, Devaney admitted to committing the arsons in an interview with police. In a subsequent interview, he detailed obtaining the gasoline from another resident’s shed and to pouring it on the outside of the trailer before lighting it.

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