Arson charged in Masonic Hall fire

Richard Eugene Meyers, Jr., of East Harrison Street, was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Carl Smith on Friday and charged with arson, criminal trespass and criminal mischief.

Additional charges may be forthcoming, depending on Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick’s review of evidence.

He is being held in lieu of $175,000 bail at the Wyoming County Correctional Facility. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Monday, May 5.

According to the criminal complaint, a fire began at the Masons’ building on East Tioga Street on March 7 around 11:30 p.m.

The fire started in the lower level of the building and spread to the upper level, causing damage to the building and property within.

The second floor of the building was used as a meeting space for the Masons and the first floor housed a business, Sicilia Restaurant & Pizzeria.

On March 7, Tunkhannock Borough Police Officer Keith Carpenter spoke with Triton Hose Fire Chief Paul Shaffer, who said that he believed the fire started in the rear porch of the building, according to a criminal complaint.

A day later, Carpenter spoke with Ignazio Cavallaro, owner of the pizzeria.

According to the criminal complaint, Cavallaro told the officer on March 8 that he found nothing suspicious and turned off all appliances when he closed for the night on March 7.

That day State Police Fire Marshal Tim Young determined that the fire was intentionally set in the porch area.

However, an arrest was not made and suspects were not identified.

On Thursday evening, police investigated a fire that took place in a dumpster behind the First Liberty Bank on East Tioga Street at 11:15 p.m.

The bank is located east of the Mason building.

Police obtained surveillance video of the fire at the bank.

According to the criminal complaint, a heavyset man wearing shorts and a dark colored T-shirt was seen walking toward Route 6 on Thursday at 10:11 p.m. near the bank, about an hour before the fire was set.

On Friday morning, a bank employee contacted the 911 communications center and reported that the person who was in the surveillance video was seen walking near the bank.

The communications center reported the information to Ptlm. Dustin Cokely, who responded to the bank parking lot.

As the officer proceeded to the rear of the bank, he observed the heavyset man, who he identified as the man he saw in the surveillance video.

The man, identified as Richard Meyers Jr., was taken into custody and interviewed at the borough police station.

State Police and Wyoming County Chief Detective David Ide were also contacted.

According to the criminal complaint, Meyers admitted to starting the fire at the Mason building.

Skumanick said that it appears that Meyers also watched the Thursday fire at the bank.