2011-03-24 / Local & State

Wertman Changes Arson Plea Again

Prior plea vacated, Tuesday’s sentencing cancelled
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

The case involving a Mc- Connellsburg man accused of lighting fire to a mobile home while its inhabitants were sleeping has been continued until the April 12 call of the list.

Roy Scott Wertman of 675 Forbes Trail Road appeared in court on Tuesday for sentencing on charges related to an arson fire that occurred on January 17, 2010, just outside the village of Knobsville. Original charges filed by Pennsylvania State Police Trooper M.B. Gordon in connection with the case included two counts of first-degree arson, two counts of recklessly endangering another person and one count of possession of explosive/incendiary materials.

According to court documents, Wertman had initially pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges in June 2010. That plea was changed in January 2011 when Wertman appeared for call of the list. At the time he instead pleaded guilty to one count of arson and two counts of reckless endangerment.

On Tuesday, with Judge Douglas Herman of the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas ready to hand down a sentence, Wertman’s plea was reverted to not guilty. In reading a presentence investigation prepared by the Fulton County Probation Department, the president judge noted Wertman’s comments made during interviews with Department Chief Dan Miller suggested innocence.

Wertman confirmed he told the chief probation officer he wasn’t involved in the matter, and he refuted the allegations against him. As a result of the most recent announcement, Wertman’s guilty plea made in January was vacated. In addition, any possible agreement previously reached with the commonwealth and Fulton County District Attorney Travis Kendall regarding a modified or reduced sentence was dropped.

Wertman will return to court on April 12 for call of the list, and jury selection will subsequently be conducted on April 25.

In investigating the 9:45 p.m. arson fire at 819 Promise Land Road, police Fire Marshal M.B. Gordon of the McConnellsburg barracks was able to determine a flammable substance was poured on the floor and furniture after access to the trailer was gained through a window. The home’s occupants, Raymond Warner and Nicole Keefer, were reportedly sleeping in an adjoining room and were awakened by the smell of smoke. They were able to safety exit their home and report the incident to emergency responders.

An affidavit of probable cause filed in the case by Gordon maintains Wertman admitted he set the fire at the request of co codefendant Cindy Naugle of 518 Knobsville Road, who is his daughter’s grandmother. Naugle will also appear in court on April 12 for call of the list in connection with having previously entered a not-guilty plea to one count of arson and related offenses.

“Naugle asked him (Wertman) to burn it down in order to keep her daughter form moving back into the trailer,” the affidavit alleges. “Later that evening, Wertman road his motorcycle to the scene and carried a plastic container of gasoline. He parked his motorcycle away from the residence and walked to the residence carrying the plastic container with gasoline. Once at the residence he opened the eastern side bedroom window and poured the gasoline into the room. He then utilized two matches and lit the interior of the room.”

Wertman reportedly returned to the fire scene a short time later as a member of the Hustontown Volunteer Fire Co.

Wertman is represented in court proceedings by Fulton County Public Defender Tamela Bard, while Naugle’s defense attorney is Anthony McBeth.

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