By Karen Blackledge
The Danville News
DANVILLE — A woman whose ex-boyfriend is charged with setting steps of an apartment building on fire went around knocking on doors of the building to make sure everyone was out.
“There were two kids in there,” Deb Roberts said of the building at 12 Pine St. Jeffery Lynn Shearer, 65, of 218 Mill St., waived his right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday afternoon on arson charges before Montour County District Judge Marvin Shrawder. Shearer was returned to the Montour County Jail in lieu of $100,000 straight bail.
Nine people, including seven residents, were in the four-apartment building the night of the fire when Shearer allegedly poured lighter fluid on the steps leading to Apt. 3 and Apt. 4 and lit them on fire.
Roberts said she had been seeing Shearer for about two weeks and then they broke up. The night of Oct. 16 she said he knocked on her door but she wouldn’t answer it. She said Shearer left a note on her door and a note under her door. She said the notes said he had bought her cigarettes and vodka.
“I didn’t hear him come back,” Roberts, of Apt. 4, said.
Shearer allegedly set the fire at 10:46 p.m. and returned to the building at about 12:13 a.m.
Roberts was among nearly a dozen people, including apartment building residents, building owner Wes Wertman and Danville Fire Chief Don Lutz III, on hand for Shearer’s hearing.
Roberts said she has a temporary protection from abuse order against Shearer dated Oct. 24.
Ashley Guerra, who lives in Apt. 3 with her husband Reuben and their 1-year-old son, said she couldn’t sleep “after everything that happened” meaning the fire.
She said Shearer returned to the building after the fire was stomped out by Tim Dietz who had stayed that night with Roberts.
Mrs. Guerra said she saw Shearer return in a van and she ran to the top of the steps and yelled at him “not to start another fire.” She yelled that he had lighter fluid in his back pocket. Shearer denied it. Danville Patrolman Keith Davenport, on patrol, could hear Mrs. Guerra, detained Shearer and later charged him.
Jason VanSickle, who has been visiting Apt. 2 with Jessica Tom and her daughter, said Tom’s daughter is still traumatized by the fire. “She had just learned about fire prevention that week,” he said of the 5-year-old.
Dan Sessions, a contractor who lives across the street at 11 Pine St., said he saw Shearer park and almost hit a mini van. “I told the police where he was headed,” Sessions said of Shearer.
Robert Erlston, who lives in Apt. 1, said he didn’t see the fire.
Davenport charged Shearer with arson danger of death or bodily injury, causing or risking a catastrophe and nine counts of recklessly endangering another person.
The Danville Fire Department was called after the fire was stomped out with Lutz taking samples of the burned and soaked carpet from the stairway.
Davenport found a can of lighter fluid in Shearer’s back pants pocket with the squirt tip in the open position. Shearer also had a lighter in his right hand, police said.
As police were pat searching him, Shearer asked, “Is this your big arrest for the month,” to which Davenport replied, “No.”
During questioning, Shearer admitted to police he had been at the apartment building two or three times that night.
Police said Shearer denied soaking the stairway carpet with lighter fluid and starting a fire. When asked about having a can of lighter fluid, he said he had numerous Zippo lighters at his home.