Washington man held on arson, endangerment charges

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A Washington man was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on charges that he set fire to a home in Washington’s West End last month after he apparently was banned from the residence by the landlord.


Following a hearing before District Judge Gary Havelka in Central Court, Anthony Montgomery, 20, of 785 Fayette St., was ordered to stand trial on two counts of arson and one count of reckless endangerment for allegedly setting the Nov. 19 fire at 770 1/2 Ewing St.


Brenda Clutter had been living at the home with Anastasia and Damien Milchek. The home is reportedly owned by Milchek’s mother, Rosella Milchek.


Clutter was sleeping on the couch about 4:30 p.m. when she heard what she described as a loud boom.


“The dog was barking,” Clutter said. “I went to the front of the house and didn’t see anything. Then I looked out the back and the house was on fire.”


Clutter said she was unable to call 911 because Montgomery, whom she identified as her nephew, had broken her cellphone the previous day. She said her nephew had dated Anastasia Milchek.


“At first, he was allowed in the house, but then the landlord and Damien said he wasn’t allowed,” Clutter said. “He came over the day before the fire, and he got mad when I told him to leave. I told him I was going to call the landlord, and he took my phone and broke it.”


Clutter testified that a day or two before the fire, her nephew became angry and said he was going to burn down the house.


“He made brags prior to the fire to different people that he was going to burn it,” Clutter testified.


Clutter said she did not see her nephew the day of the fire.


Edward Cape, who lives a few doors down from the house that burned, said he saw someone with a gasoline can lighting garbage on fire at the back of 770 1/2 Ewing.


“I thought it was pretty close to the building,” Cape said. “But in the West End, you never know what you are going to see.


“I saw the man and then he looked at me and started running,” Cape added. “I saw the door on fire.”


Cape said he tried following the suspect but lost him when he got to Broad Street. He never saw the suspect’s face because the man had the hood pulled up on his dark, hooded shirt.


Trooper Chad Scrip, a state police fire marshal, said the fire originated near the basement door.


“There was garbage lined against the block wall that was consumed by fire,” Scrip said. “The door was burned, and the joists were burned up to the bedroom floor.”


Scrip, who said he could smell the odor of a petroleum-based substance, said there were no electrical outlets or heating elements in the area where the fire started, leading him to rule it was arson,


City police Officer Paul Becker said Montgomery was taken into custody on Green Street in Canton Township. Becker said Montgomery had changed his clothing but still had a slight odor of gasoline about him.


Montgomery allegedly gave a statement indicating he set the fire.


“He was calm but said he was angry and said he set the fire because he was angry at his girlfriend,” Becker said.


When Glenn Alterio, the public defender representing Montgomery, asked why his client hadn’t signed his written statement, Becker responded that he was not sure.


Havelka agreed to amend Montgomery’s bond to $100,000, with 10 percent acceptable. Havelka told Montgomery that should he be released from Washington County jail, he is to have no contact with any of the potential witnesses in the case, nor the victims.


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