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Man accused in Williamsport house fire charged in 2012 with threatening to burn down Hagerstown

July 19, 2013|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Firefighter Thomas Cleveland, with the Williamsport Volunteer Fire & EMS Co. 2, throws burnt debris out of the window of a house at 20 N. Artizan St. in Williamsport Wednesday evening.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

A Williamsport man who was charged with intentionally setting fire to a vacant two-story house Wednesday on North Artizan Street in Williamsport was charged in 2012 with wielding a knife and threatening to burn down Hagerstown, according to police and prosecutors.

Daniel Alfred Lavasseur, 57, of 49 N. Potomac St., Apt. 2 in Williamsport, was charged in Wednesday’s fire with one count each of second-degree arson, first-degree malicious burning and malicious destruction of property valued at more than $500, according to court documents.

In March 2012, Hagerstown police charged Lavasseur with making an arson threat. Officers alleged that Lavasseur, who held a knife and carried a Confederate flag, threatened to burn down the city.

In that same incident, he was also accused of disorderly conduct for yelling racial slurs at a woman and her child, police said.

Those charges were dismissed in June 2012, because the threat to burn down the city didn’t seem credible, according to Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Brett Wilson.

On Thursday, Judge Ralph France II set the bond for Lavasseur at $125,000 during a bail-review hearing in Washington County District Court in Hagerstown.

Lavasseur appeared for the hearing via a closed-circuit television feed between district court and the Washington County Detention Center.

He chose to address the court against the advice of France and the public defender.

“Get me a lie detector test, and I’ll walk out today,” Lavasseur said.

He raised his hand and saluted France after he was dismissed from the hearing.

“I salute you, your honor. God bless you. Have a good day,” Lavasseur said.

The one-alarm fire on Wednesday was reported at 5:34 p.m., when a neighbor called 911 after seeing a person running from a home at 20 N. Artizan St., the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office said. The caller reported that heavy smoke was coming from the eaves.

The fire marshal’s office said an investigation determined that two fires were set in the kitchen at the rear of the house. A K-9 unit alerted to the presence of fire accelerants, investigators said.

Lavasseur was picked up a short time later at River Bottom Park in Williamsport and positively identified by the witness, according to the statement of probable cause.

The fire, which caused an estimated $35,000 in damages, was contained to the kitchen, the fire marshal’s office said.

About 50 firefighters from Williamsport, Halfway, Funkstown, Clear Spring, Maugansville and Washington County responded to the blaze.

If convicted of the charges, Lavasseur would face a maximum penalty of 28 years of imprisonment and $37,500 in fines, according to documents.

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