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Trial starts for Pa. man facing arson charges

February 10, 2006|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The jury trial of a Quincy Township man charged with setting his mobile home on fire to escape police began Thursday with the man's cousin testifying he saw him near the house the night of the fire.

Norman G. Patterson Jr., 35, of 9120 Tomstown Road, is charged with two counts of arson, along with fleeing or eluding police, criminal mischief, resisting arrest and recklessly endangering other people. The case is expected to go to the jury today.

The fire at the mobile home happened sometime on the night of March 25, 2005, or morning of March 26, 2005, when police attempted to pick Patterson up on a parole violation and in connection with a car chase earlier that night, according to court records.

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Cpl. John Shindledecker of the Waynesboro (Pa.) Police Department testified he was patrolling West Main Street when he saw "suspicious activity" involving a silver Saturn. He chased the car west at a high speed before ending the pursuit for safety reasons, he testified.

On cross examination by defense attorney Steve Rice, Shindledecker testified he did not get the car's license plate during the chase.

Testifying he recognized the driver's face, Shindledecker said he checked outstanding warrants and was able to find where Patterson was living. He testified he went to Patterson's house with Pennsylvania State Police.

Shindledecker testified police banged on doors and used a loudspeaker, but got no response, although he could see shadows behind the curtains. When a fire started in the living room, Shindledecker, who had been guarding the rear, ran around to the front before realizing it might be a diversion, he testified.

The fire died down, but was followed by a second that destroyed the home. Stanford Sydnor, a retired state police fire marshal, testified he determined two sofas had been set on fire.

Shaun Patterson of Waynesboro, Norman Patterson's cousin, testified he had gotten a call on his cell phone from his cousin that night.

"He thought I was outside his trailer," Shaun Patterson testified. After telling his cousin he was not, Norman Patterson asked him to drive over, he testified.

When he neared the burning home, Shaun Patterson testified he saw his cousin standing behind a guardrail on Tomstown Road, but did not stop.

"Was there any time ... when you thought you might be considered a suspect?" Rice asked Shaun Patterson. Patterson said there was not, but Rice questioned him about his relationship with his cousin, noting he had not spoken to Norman Patterson since the night of the fire.

"I never visited him the first two times he was in jail," Shaun Patterson testified.

It was more than nine months before Norman Patterson was taken into custody at a Greenvillage, Pa., convenience store. Sydnor testified police lured him there under the belief that he was meeting a woman.

Two state troopers testified Patterson made statements once he was in custody about setting his home on fire. Rice questioned why the statements were not included in supplemental reports until months after Patterson's arrest.

Both testified they were not involved in the investigation and did not recall the statements until later.

"This is a whodunit," Rice said in his opening statement to the jury, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove Patterson was involved in the pursuit or the fire.

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