A two-day jury trial involving a Fredericksburg man accused of setting his home on fire and endangering the lives of firefighters ended late Wednesday afternoon with guilty verdicts on all counts.
45-year old Thomas Patrick McKerns was found guilty of pouring gasoline around a third floor attic bedroom of his home at 317 Mountain Drive in Bethel Township on January 14th, 2021 and then lighting the room ablaze using a propane grill lighter.
Assistant District Attorney Nicole Eisenhart called responding firefighters, a state police forensic scientist who tested evidence samples from the blaze, and two state police troopers who also serve as fire marshals to testify during the trial.
The troopers interviewed McKerns both at his house and at the Jonestown Barracks the next day, on video. Portions of the interview were shown during the trial.
During the interview, he confessed to setting his house on fire because he was trying to rid himself of his bad memories from a prior relationship years earlier. He testified that some of his ex-girlfriend’s possessions were in the room.
McKerns also took the stand in his own defense Wednesday, saying he was emotionally distraught on the day of the fire and couldn’t remember much from that day, or his conversations with state police the next day. He blamed the cause of the fire on a space heater in the attic which had been on for up to a week prior to the fire.
The jury convicted McKerns of one count of arson endangering property and one count of arson endangering persons, with a special question about whether firefighters were present while the fire was still in progress. Sentencing ranges are between 48 and 60 months in state prison.
Although McKerns was out of jail on $20,000 bail, Judge Bradford Charles upped the bail amount to $40,000. However, he said he would accept a bail bond, to allow McKerns to await an April 6th sentencing out of jail.
McKerns is currently being held in the Lebanon County Correctional Facility until he secures a bail bond.