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Man faces multiple charges in arson

Shawn Stewart, 19, of Pittston, accused of setting fire to ex-girlfriend’s apartment.

PITTSTON – A witness told police Tuesday that Shawn Stewart hid under a baby crib and watched his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend have sex before lighting her Pittston apartment on fire in June.

It was the last piece of evidence police said they needed to accuse Stewart, 19, of intentionally setting the fire that heavily damaged 266 S. Main St. on June 29. Two national guardsmen rescued two people from the fire.

Stewart, of Lagrange Street, Pittston, was charged with three counts of arson, two counts each of criminal mischief and recklessly endangering another person, and a single count of criminal trespass. He was arraigned before Senior District Judge Andrew Barilla Jr. in Central Court via videoconference from the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, where he is jailed for lack of $100,000 bail.

According to the criminal complaint filed by Assistant Police Chief James Noone and Patrolman Robert Powers:

Jonathan Stewart told police on Tuesday that Shawn Stewart admitted to him that he had broken into Heather Lewis’ second floor apartment and hid under a baby’s crib waiting for her to come home. It’s unclear whether the Stewarts are related.

Lewis and her boyfriend, Raymond Dziewit, arrived and were joined by other people. When everyone left, Lewis and Dziewit had sex, which was upsetting to Shawn Stewart.

Shawn Stewart then admitted, according to Jonathan Stewart, that he set a blanket on a couch on fire. Shawn Stewart left the apartment building and as he watched the fire grow out of control, tried to put a ladder against the building.

Two National Guardsmen with the 109th Field Artillery National Guard, Capt. Salvatore Scalzo and Sgt. David Smith, were patrolling the area and saw flames and Lewis and Dziewit on the roof.

Scalzo and Smith found a ladder and carried Lewis and Dziewit to safety.

Dziewit suffered burns to his back. Lewis was not injured.

The fire happened when most of the Wyoming Valley was evacuated because of flooding from the Susquehanna River. National Guardsmen were patrolling the valley during the evacuation.

Before the fire, on the same evening, the building’s landlord, Thomas McCormack, noticed stacked garbage cans at the rear of the building, and remembered that Shawn Stewart had entered Lewis’ apartment in the past by climbing on the cans, McCormack later told police. He also told police he had entered Lewis’ apartment and looked for Shawn Stewart but didn’t see him.

Jonathan Stewart told police Tuesday that Shawn Stewart thought McCormack had noticed his feet sticking out from under the crib.

Lewis said she confronted Shawn Stewart on July 12 when she saw her apartment keys on his kitchen table. She said he admitted to breaking into the apartment and leaving when he saw Lewis and Dziewit having sex. Shawn Stewart told Lewis he returned to find the building on fire.

State police fire investigator Trooper Ron Jarocha determined that the fire was set in two places, in a hallway leading to the bedroom and on a couch in the living room.

A preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 12 at Central Court.

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