Clarion County Couple Accused of Arson, Fraud in Connection with June Fire

RIMERSBURG, Pa. (EYT) – A local couple is facing a slew of charges in connection with a June 9 fire in Rimersburg Borough, Clarion County.

Randall Paul Walters II, 31, and Natalie Lynn Walters, 32, both of Rimersburg, are facing numerous charges following an investigation into the blaze.

POLICE RESPOND TO FIRE, INITIAL INVESTIGATION BEGINS

On June 9, 2014, Clarion-based State Police Trooper/Criminal Investigator William Craddock was dispatched to 379 Chestnut Street in Rimersburg Borough to obtain preliminary information for Deputy Fire Marshal Robert J. Southern. Trooper Craddock was advised that a female had been seen leaving a residence, and a short time later, there was an explosion at the residence.

According to the Criminal Complaint, upon Trooper Craddock’s arrival, he met with the Rimersburg Fire Chief, Brad Salzoni, who advised that the residents had allegedly been seen packing up their vehicle and that the female had been seen just minutes prior to the fire, entering the residence and then quickly exiting and leaving in their vehicle. He pointed out the female resident, Natalie Lynn Walters, to Trooper Craddock.

The Criminal Complaint states a 2003 silver Dodge Caravan on the roadway, a few houses to the north of the scene, was identified to Trooper Craddock as Walters’ vehicle. A check of CLEAN/NCIC system revealed that the vehicle was registered to Randall Walters, II. In the back of the vehicle, in plain view, Trooper Craddock was able to observe several garbage bags, luggage, and other household items. At this point, Trooper Craddock secured the vehicle.

Trooper Craddock approached Natalie Lynn Walters in front of the residence to the north of the scene and conducted a brief interview. When asked, she allegedly related that she had no idea what had happened and stated that they “left to go to the gas station, and when they came back, their house was on fire.”

Trooper Craddock then spoke briefly with Randall Walters, II. When asked if they rented or owned the house, he stated that the house was “under contract.” He then stated that they have lived there for “four years this month,” and prior to that, they lived on West Back Street in Rimersburg. When asked, he stated that they went to the gas station and then back to the residence and hadn’t left since then, according to police.

He then allegedly related that he had no idea how the fire started and stated that there was a short in their breaker box earlier around 4:00 p.m., at which point he could smell burning wires. He related that he called West Penn Power, and they said to “kill” the main breaker until they could fix it later in the day.

VEHICLE SEIZED AND SEARCHED

Mr. Walter then stated that he shut the breaker off in the 20 amp box at the bottom of the basement steps. Trooper Craddock then advised Mr. Walters that he was seizing his vehicle, and the defendant volunteered that police could search his vehicle if we wanted, according to the Complaint.

At 11:05 p.m., Trooper Craddock read the defendant verbatim a Waiver of Rights and Consent to Search Form, requesting consent to search his vehicle. The defendant granted consent to search, signing the form indicating his consent.

Police then searched the rear of the vehicle and located several white garbage bags which contained frozen meats, vegetables, fruit, juice, condiments, and other food items; garbage bags full of clothes and children’s toys, photographs, decorations, cookbooks, and other household items; and a back pack containing household items. Police also found an overnight bag containing female and children’s clothes.

According to the complaint, when asked about the bags, the defendant advised that they were taking everything to Goodwill after they got gas. He advised that the food was “taken so it didn’t go bad due to the power being off.” When asked what the initial plan was, he related that they were then going to return home. The defendant’s story changed several times during questioning, according to police.

POLICE INTERVIEW WITNESS

In speaking with a witness/neighbor at the scene, Trooper Craddock was advised that when Mrs. Walters was observed going back into her residence that the defendants’ vehicle was parked in front of the residence and that her husband was in the driver’s seat of the vehicle.

According to the Complaint, the witness stated that Mrs. Walter was allegedly observed picking up a bottle from the ground outside of the residence which was believed to be clear, and then she allegedly went into the residence. The witness also stated that Mrs. Walters was in the residence for only a couple of seconds and then exited and walked quickly before getting into the vehicle. According to the witness, approximately three minutes after Mr. and Mrs. Walters left, she heard a loud explosion and observed fire coming out of the kitchen window.

DEFENDANT INTERVIEWED AT PSP CLARION

Mrs. Walters was later interviewed further by Trooper Craddock at PSP Clarion and advised that earlier in the day, around 12:00 p.m., her husband had found the wires in the fuse box burning and the first few steps of the basement stairs smoldering. She related that they got buckets of water and put it out. When asked, she related that she did not go back into the house after they found it on fire.

The Complaint states Mrs. Walters was wearing a shirt which had areas of apparent soot on them. She had explained this as being in the garage with her kids earlier working on the tractor. When asked if there was any chance the stains were soot, she smelt them and said that it smelled like soot and attributed it to cleaning up the earlier fire. When asked about the bags in the car, she related that 3-4 bags were to go to Goodwill. When asked, she advised that she had personally packed everything in the vehicle. She then volunteered that she was probably going to be in trouble and explained that she had put her husband’s brand new pistol in the vehicle as her dad had wanted to see it. When advised that police did not locate it, she did not have an answer. When asked, she allegedly advised that they did plan on moving, and she had put a ‘for sale’ sign up about three days ago. When asked about problems with neighbors, she described problems with all of the neighbors.

When asked about the food, Mrs. Walters stated that they were taking the food to her parents and explained that her parents don’t have much, and it would help feed the kids while they were up there. She then related that it wasn’t all of the food in the kitchen. When asked, she stated that the electric was working in the house when they left. She then hesitated and said unless her husband had turned it off again.

When asked, Mrs. Walters related that “they all left together” and her husband was driving the car. She denied having gone back into the residence. When questioned about this, she shook her head no and stated “huh uh.” She then stated that she had gone back into the garage to feed the cat. When asked if there would be any reason why she would have an accelerant on her, she advised that maybe she had touched the gas can in the garage earlier and got some on her. She advised that she had not changed her clothing. When asked about having a grill, she advised they had a charcoal grill. When asked about having lighter fluid, she advised that she believed that they were out as they recently had a cook out. When asked about moving out their belongings, she related that she had moved out a recliner to bring a new one in and had sold some of the kid’s clothes at a yard sale. When asked about the lack of clothes in her closet, she related that there was clothes in the closets and advised that most of hers and the kids’ clothes were in her closet and downstairs in the washer and dryer. Trooper Craddock then asked again, and she stated that she doesn’t know where the fire started in the house. She then stated that she smokes but not inside the residence, according to the Complaint.

On June 10, Trooper Craddock spoke with a representative with West Penn Power who advised that the Walters’ had not called reporting any problems with the electrical service on June 9 and that the only call was made on June 10, by Natalie Walters, advising that the house burnt down and requesting they terminate services.

FIRE MARSHAL INVESTIGATION

Deputy Fire Marshal/Trooper Robert J. Southern Southern was contacted by PSP Clarion who requested that he respond to the scene to attempt to determine the cause and origin of the fire. PSP Clarion advised that the Fire Chief believed that there were suspicious circumstances concerning the fire and requested an immediate response. Prior to arrival, members from the PSP Clarion Patrol and Criminal Investigation Unit responded to the scene to secure same and obtain necessary information and interviews pertinent to the investigation.

According to the Criminal Complaint, upon Trooper Southern’s arrival at the scene, he met with Trooper Craddock who advised that initial interviews were completed and that Trooper Craddock was going to obtain further interviews from the defendants at PSP Clarion shortly. Trooper Southern spoke with Natalie Walters briefly at the scene to obtain general information about the fire. Trooper Southern asked Natalie Walters if there were any problems with anything at the residence prior to the fire, and she related that there were no problems. Trooper Southern examined the residence where the fire had occurred and determined that there were two points of origin and both were intentionally set. The first point of origin located was in the area of the landing at the top of the basement steps just inside the side entry door. The fire burned up and out and progressed into the kitchen area of the residence.

Trooper Southern then determined what ignition sources, if any, were present that could have possibly started the fire. No ignition sources were found in this area that could have contributed to the fire. The second point of origin was located on top of the electrical panel. Wires were found to be melted from the outside and progressing inward. There were remnants of partially burnt newspapers that were placed around the wires and intentionally lit to start a fire. The fire damage to the electrical wires was caused by the fire impinging on the insulation from the outside as a result of the paper being ignited. The only ignition source located at this location was the electric panel. It was examined and found to have suffered no damage other than what was described above.

Based on further scene examination, Trooper Southern noticed that the closets in the upstairs contained no clothing. Trooper Southern determined that this fire was intentionally set with two points of origin based on the physical evidence described above, the observation of the witness, and the timeline the witness described.

CHARGES FILED

Information discovered by Trooper Southern during further investigation and consultation with Trooper Craddock resulted in numerous criminal charges being filed against both defendants.

Randall Paul Walters II and Natalie Lynn Walters face the following charges:

– Arson-Danger Of Death Or Bodily Injury, Felony 1
– Reckless Burning or Exploding – places property having value that exceeds $5000 or automobile, Felony 3
– Arson Endangering Property-Reckless Endangerment of Inhabited Buildings, Felony 2
– Arson-Intent Collect Insurance, Felony 2
– Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Misdemeanor 2
– Criminal Mischief/Dmg Prop Intent, Reckless, Or Neglig, Felony 3
– False/Fraud/Incomp Insurance Claim, Felony 3
– Conspiracy – Arson-Danger Of Death Or Bodily Injury, Felony
– Conspiracy – Reckless Burning or Exploding – places property having value that exceeds $5000 or
automobile, place, Felony 3
– Conspiracy – Arson Endangering Property-Reckless Endangerment of Inhabited Buildings, Felony 2
– Conspiracy – Arson-Intent Collect Insurance, Felony 2
– Conspiracy – Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Misdemeanor 2
– Conspiracy – Crim Misch/Dmg Prop Intent, Reckless, Or Neglig, Felony 3
– Conspiracy – False/Fraud/Incomp Insurance Claim, Felony 3

Bail was set at $50,000 unsecured each.

A preliminary hearing is set for August 26 before Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey C. Miller.


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