2011-03-17 / Local & State

Baltimore Man Jailed For Arson

Ejected during explosion from burning vehicle
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

David Mahala Sr. David Mahala Sr. A Baltimore, Md., man was remanded to Franklin County Prison last Tuesday instead of getting a state sentence after the court took time to review his detailed criminal history outlined in a presentence investigation report, which included the most recent case of arson outside the Warfordsburg Welcome Center.

Forty- four- year- old David Wayne Mahala Sr. was cited by Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Angela Madden of the Mc- Connellsburg barracks following a vehicle fire at the Interstate 70 rest stop on September 1, 2010. Charges initially filed against Mahala included possession of explosive or incendiary materials; reckless burning or explosions; criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, driving while operating privileges are suspended or revoked and arson danger of death or bodily injury.

Charging documents maintain representatives of the Frederick County, Md., Sheriff’s Office and Hancock Fire Chief William Yost were first to arrive at the scene located on the north side of Interstate 70 in Bethel Township. The emergency responder and law officers determined Mahala had suffered slight burns during the 10:55 p.m. blaze, and the four- door Hyundai belonging to Mahala’s wife had been “burned down to the metal.”

EMS responders from the Needmore Volunteer Fire Co. were also dispatched as were firefighters from Needmore and Washington County, Md., Volunteer Fire Co. #5. Mahala was transported to Fulton County Medical Center but en route to the hospital, the Maryland man confessed to responders that he had poured gasoline throughout the interior of the car but not where he was directly sitting, the affidavit said.

Mahala further told responders he had “just wanted to hurt his wife,” Trooper Madden said in charging documents.

In speaking with Mahala later at the hospital, Madden learned the gasoline had been poured on the front seats, dash, right rear passenger seat and on his tools because he “didn’t want her to get them.” He then crawled into the back seat, lit the matches but forgot to shut the car door.

“As soon as I lit the matches, it blew me out of the door,” Mahala told investigators. Burns were suffered primarily to his right leg and under his right arm.

After arguing with his wife that evening, but prior to setting the fire, Mahala had informed his stepson over the telephone, “Tell your mom she’ll never see me or the car again.”

In reviewing the case with Fulton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Shawn Meyers on Tuesday, March 8, Fulton County District Attorney Travis Kendall pointed out Mahala has been arrested in the past 22 times. Even though the real victim of the case, Mahala’s wife, Robin, wanted the matter disregarded, Kendall said a large amount of restitution was owed to State Farm.

Defense attorney James Stein stated his client had not been arrested during the last seven years and many of his transgressions had occurred during his youth. Furthermore, he has since gotten married and secured employment even after he was laid off from a specialized construction job.

Stein made reference to Mahala being diagnosed with clinical depression since his attempt at arson at the Welcome Center. His behavior that was fueled by alcohol and depression has been alleviated, Stein said, and Mahala now provides both emotional and financial support to his family.

Wife Robin Mahala spoke on behalf of her husband and detailed how his behavior since being diagnosed and receiving proper medication has changed. “I kept lashing out at him, and he snapped,” said the woman. “Something good came out of this ... He’s getting help. We talk to each other now.”

The defendant’s mother also said Mahala has changed for the better since this incident. He is calmer, easier to talk to and more understanding, she said.

Mahala publicly apologized for his actions. “Six months ago, I was an idiot, a drunk,” he said. “I’ve taken a job ... and it makes me feel better than I’m doing something to help out ... I can’t take it back. I want to work on getting better.”

Taking into consideration the statements made by Mahala’s family and the possibility of their losing their home without the additional income, Judge Meyers stated he would change his sentence from time in a state correctional institution to a local sentence.

“You’ve identified the issues and are meeting with your physician regularly,” said the judge, who noted Mahala still placed a lot of individuals in danger that evening.

As a result, Mahala was ordered to complete between 11-1/2 months and 23 months in Franklin County Prison for one count of arson. He will be eligible for work release and will be paroled after the minimum sentence in order to complete 36 months probation. Credit was given for 33 days previously served.

Mahala will also pay restitution in the amount of $16,269 to State Farm, a $25-per-month supervision fee and fines totalling $250.

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