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Pa. man has prior convictions for arson

August 03, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A borough man charged with setting fire to a trash container last month has a long history of arson convictions, according to Franklin County Court records.

Larry Francis Brookens, 58, of 56 S. Main St., was placed on probation in 1972 and jailed in 1973 and 2000 on arson-related charges, according to records in the Clerk of Courts office.

Brookens was charged July 27 by Chambersburg police with arson and causing or risking a catastrophe for allegedly setting fire to a trash container behind 72 S. Main St. on the night of Friday, July 22, police said. The affidavit of probable cause stated the container was blocking the rear door of the building and flames were reaching the second-floor windows.

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A police officer pushed the container away from the building and the fire was put out by the Chambersburg Fire Department, police said.

A witness gave police a description of a man she had seen behaving suspiciously in the alley behind the building and police stopped Brookens as he was walking in the first block of South Main Street. Police said Brookens told them he was going to his girlfriend's mother's home and denied setting the fire, but was taken into custody for violating parole for consuming alcohol.

Police found two hand-rolled cigarettes and a lighter on Brookens, the affidavit stated.

"Mr. Brookens has a past history of criminal behavior, including arson and criminal mischief by means of setting fires," the affidavit stated. Brookens told police on July 27 that he tossed a cigarette into the container.

Tuesday in Central Court, Brookens waived his preliminary hearing on the charges. His mandatory arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 14, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Brookens was charged with malicious mischief in 1967, but the case later was dismissed, according to court records. In 1972, he was charged with setting fire to woodland and setting fire to personal property and was placed on a probationary program for one year, court records state.

In 1973, Brookens pleaded guilty to arson and was sentenced to 18 months in state prison, according to court records. In that case, he was ordered to pay $300 in restitution to his victim, who lived in the 600 block of South Main Street.

On Oct. 30, 2000, Brookens pleaded no contest to arson and causing or risking a catastrophe and was sentenced to nine to 18 months, court records state. His restitution in that case was $1,625.88 to Shirley Dimarco of Chambersburg.

"It happened several times to me downtown," Dimarco said of trash containers being set on fire. The one for which Brookens was convicted was behind 56 Lincoln Way West, she said.

"It was kind of a scary situation because I had tenants," she said.

Dimarco said the restitution was paid, but repairs to damages from other unsolved trash fires "came out of my pocket."

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