Area Man Arrested, Suspect Wanted After Stolen Vehicle Set on Fire

INDIANA COUNTY, Pa. – Two men were charged after troopers and a Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal responded to a vehicle fire early Friday morning and learned the fire was intentionally set and the vehicle was reported stolen.

Austin Milanos, 27, and Mathew Lee Smith, 47, both of Indiana, PA, were each charged with felony counts of Reckless Burning or Exploding and Receiving Stolen Property as well as a summary count of Disorderly Conduct following an extensive investigation.

Charges were filed on September 17 before Magisterial District Judge Susanne Steffee.

Smith was taken into custody and was remanded to the Indiana County Jail in lieu of $100,000 monetary bail.

An arrest warrant was issued for Milanos and investigators have since been unable to locate him. Investigators believe he may have fled to his home state of Illinois.

Milanos is described as a White, non-Hispanic male, 6’02” tall, and 175 lbs. with blonde hair and hazel eyes.

On September 15, 2023 at approximately 3:09 a.m., members of the Troop A, Indiana Patrol Unit responded to a report of a loud explosion followed by a car alarm and/or horn sounding in the area of Martin Road and 1st Street in Rayne Township, Indiana County.

Upon arrival, troopers discovered a vehicle that had been backed into a pull-off along Martin Road near the railroad crossing south of SR 110. Troopers observed the vehicle to be engulfed in flames.

The vehicle was later identified as a gray 2014 Nissan Pathfinder that had been entered into the National Crime Information Center by the Indiana Borough Police Department as a stolen vehicle.

Also upon his arrival at the scene, the investigating trooper observed a bottle of windshield washer fluid on the ground approximately 20 feet away from the engulfed vehicle. The trooper was able to pick up the bottle and detected an odor of gasoline coming from the open top of the bottle.

Troopers also observed blue, folded paper towels on the ground in front of the vehicle. These were determined to be of the same type provided for customer use at Sheetz gas pumps.

Troopers also observed a trail camera mounted on a tree directly behind the burning vehicle. With consent from the property owner, a review of the trail camera images showed the Pathfinder entering the area, being backed into the position where it was found, and an unknown male dumping a substance onto the hood of the vehicle before igniting it on fire.

The suspect was observed to be wearing a hooded shirt with a zipper and pants that were tight around his ankles. The trail camera also captured images of a second vehicle with a female seated in the passenger seat.

In the course of the investigation, video from Sheetz, 525 Ben Franklin Road South, White Township, Indiana County, was reviewed. The video showed a black Ford Fiesta pulling up to Pump #2 and a male, later identified as Milanos, exiting the passenger side of the vehicle. He was wearing a black zip-up jacket with the hood pulled over his head and beige pants. The driver of the Fiesta was identified as a known female.

In the Sheetz surveillance video, Milanos is observed wearing a zip-up hoodie and pants that fit tightly around his ankles. He is then observed approaching the south side of the store and selecting a bottle of windshield washer fluid. He then entered the store and purchased the item with cash.

Milanos then exited the store and dumped the contents of the windshield washer fluid bottle near the ice machine before returning to Pump #2. While at Pump #2, Milanos is observed filling the windshield washer fluid bottle with gasoline and then placing the bottle into the Fiesta. The Fiesta then exited the Sheetz parking lot onto Warren Road. Surveillance cameras also captured the vehicle’s registration plate.

Upon further investigation, troopers were able to identify and interview the driver of the Fiesta and subsequently identified Milanos and Smith as suspects.

In the course of the interview, troopers learned that on the morning of this incident, Milanos, Smith, and the female traveled to the location along Martin Road at which time Smith backed the Pathfinder into the pull-off. Milanos was reported to have then dumped gasoline onto the vehicle, lit paper towels on fire, and threw them onto the vehicle causing it to become engulfed in flames.

It was also reported that at one point during this incident, Smith attempted to throw lit paper towels or an item into the Pathfinder, but as he did the vehicle exploded causing visible injury to Smith’s face, hands, and legs. It was further reported to troopers that Smith had with him a 911 scanner and as they were returning to his apartment, they overheard a fire department being dispatched to the vehicle fire. The female reported to troopers that she was informed to keep quiet about the incident and had been warned to not tell anyone about it.

On September 17 at approximately 5:30 a.m., troopers executed a search warrant at Smith’s residence. During the search, Smith was located inside the residence and was found to have visible severe burn injuries to his lower legs. A search of a clothes hamper in a bedroom yielded a black Old Navy hooded coat with visible burn damage and melted material as well as green cargo shorts, also with visible burn damage and melted material.

Smith was then placed under arrest, processed, and transported to Indiana Regional Medical Center (IRMC) to receive treatment for his injuries. Upon clearance from IRMC, Smith was lodged in the Indiana County Jail to await arraignment.

A preliminary hearing for Smith is scheduled for September 26 at 10:30 a.m.

The Troop A Fire Marshal Unit, the Indiana Borough Police Department, and the Creekside Volunteer Fire Company also assisted with this investigation.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Austin Milanos is encouraged to contact 9-1-1.

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