Monessen police arrest woman in arson that injured firefighters

September 22, 2017
Laurel Lee Womack

MONESSEN – A Monessen woman has admitted to setting fire to her neighbor’s house, causing a blaze that led to three firefighters suffering minor injuries late Tuesday, city police allege in court documents.

Laurel Lee Womack, 48, of 631 Summit Ave., confessed to the arson after a state police fire marshal pointed out a surveillance camera to her near her residence that captured video of her going in and out of the house across the street shortly before it became engulfed in flames, Monessen police stated in court records.

“Laurel sat on (her) porch and she was able to see a yellow orange glow coming from the house,” Monessen police Officer Chris Gray stated in the affidavit. “Laurel told us after she saw the glow, she went inside the house to use the bathroom. Laurel told us when she came back outside the entire front half of the house was engulfed in flames.”

Womack was placed Thursday in Westmoreland County jail on $100,000 bond on a string of charges, including arson, causing a catastrophe and aggravated assault.

The resident of the heavily damaged house at 632 Summit Ave., Linda Novoblisky, told police she left it about 8:30 p.m. that day to stay with a relative because she was afraid to spend nights in her home after it was burglarized over the weekend.

Rostraver Township firefighter Geoffrey DeWitt was among those who were injured at the house. He was in its living room when he fell through holes in the floor and was treated at the scene for burns to his left ankle.

Womack allegedly admitted to setting fire to the living room floor, using a small container of 99-proof alcohol and four matches, court records indicate.

Another Rostraver firefighter, Justin Shawley, was treated at the scene for bruises after the porch roof fell on him. Monessen firefighter Mark Santocolumbo was treated at Mon Valley Hospital for a shoulder injury he suffered while pulling the roof off Shawley, police stated in the affidavit.

Womack also told police she was asked to “blaze” the house and she went into it the first time to see if there was anything else to steal, police allege in court records.

She also said the person who asked her to set the fire had earlier stolen a television from it. No one else has been charged in the case, a court official said.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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