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Hearings waived for men charged in $5 million fire

March 23, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Preliminary hearings for two men charged with the Sept. 2, 2005, fire that caused $5 million in damage to the Chambersburg Waste Paper Co. were continued Tuesday in Franklin County Central Court.

The new hearing dates for Eric Alden Frain, 21, of 1307 Preston Lane, and Trenton Allen Christophel, 21, of 7914 Browns Mill Road, were continued to April 18, according to Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson. Both men are charged with two third-degree felony counts of arson and related offenses, one third-degree felony count of causing or risking a catastrophe, a misdemeanor count of failure to prevent a catastrophe and a summary charge of criminal trespass, according to the criminal complaint.

"I was able to provide them with a pretty extensive discovery package just today," Nelson said, referring to the evidence the prosecution has put together against Frain and Christophel. The case was continued to give their attorneys more time to review the evidence, he said.

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Frain and Christophel were charged in January after an investigation by State Police Fire Marshal Trooper Jeffrey Sarver into the fire that destroyed the 75,000-square-foot building.

"I am satisfied at this point they did not go there to burn the building down," Sarver said after the charges were filed in January.

The affidavit of probable cause stated that Frain and Christophel drove to the plant site at 2047 Loop Road in Guilford Township about 6:10 p.m.

While behind the building, they set fire to wooden sticks soaked with diesel fuel, according to the criminal complaint.

Sarver said in January one of the burning sticks was thrown against one of two large round bales of paper next to the building, which caught fire. Frain and Christophel tried to stomp out the fire, but "the fire was of such magnitude they panicked" and fled, Sarver said.

During the course of the investigation, Sarver said he received information that gave him clues to the identity of the suspects, including the first name of one and the nickname of another. Neither man had any ties to the business prior to the night of the fire, Sarver said.

Each of the felony charges against the men carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison upon conviction, according to Pennsylvania law.

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