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Cops: Explosion no accident

Police say domestic issues being probed in blast that destroyed home, damaged 12 other structures.

The scene Monday morning at 58 Penn Ave. and Memorial Street in Exeter, where a blast leveled a house Saturday and damaged several other buildings in the area.

Clark Van Orden/The Times Leader

EXETER – Five days before David Lamoreaux’s home was destroyed in an explosion on Saturday, police allege that his wife and another man assaulted him.

Deborah Lamoreaux, 45, and Christopher Pack, 45, of Market Street, Pittston, were charged Monday with assaulting David Lamoreaux in the couple’s home at 58 Penn Ave. on July 27.

Police said that after David Lamoreaux was attacked, he crawled outside for help, screaming “They’re trying to kill me,” according to arrest records.

The Lamoreaux home was destroyed in a blast that damaged at least 12 buildings, including the John F. Kennedy Elementary School on Penn Avenue and Memorial Street.

Police Chief John McNeil said he believes the blast was not an accident and investigators are looking at the family’s domestic issues as possibly being behind the explosion.

“It’s definitely criminal in nature,” McNeil said. “We know right now it’s not accidental. What we are exploring are the facts, circumstances over domestic problems that they had. It’s a possibility that could be a cause.”

Deborah Lamoreaux filed an emergency protection from abuse order petition on July 1, 2008, signed by District Judge David Barilla of Swoyersville. An affidavit in support for the emergency PFA was missing from the file at the courthouse. A hearing before a county judge for a permanent PFA order was never held.

Police charged Deborah Lamoreaux and Pack after a domestic dispute at the home on July 27, five days before the house exploded.

According to the criminal complaints:

Two neighbors told police they witnessed Deborah Lamoreaux and a man parked next to 58 Penn Ave. in a Ford Thunderbird. Deborah entered the home and the man, identified as Pack, hid behind shrubs near the rear door.

David Lamoreaux told police he argued with his wife when she yelled, “Get in here,” the criminal complaints say. Pack kicked in the rear door and began punching and kicking David, who was knocked to the floor.

Neighbors heard loud noises coming from inside the house and saw David running out a door only to be dragged back inside, the criminal complaint says.

Police said David Lamoreaux suffered injuries during the alleged assault and they found damage to the rear door and inside the house.

A neighbor on Penn Avenue, whose home and vehicle were damaged in the explosion, said police were frequently at the Lamoreaux household.

Deborah Lamoreaux was charged with simple assault, reckless endangerment and criminal conspiracy. Pack was charged with burglary, simple assault, reckless endangerment, criminal trespass and criminal conspiracy. They were arraigned by District Judge Joseph Carmody in West Pittston on Monday afternoon. She was released without bail, and Pack was released on $5,000 bail.

Preliminary hearings are tentatively scheduled on Aug. 12.

Neighbors said the explosion was like something from a war movie. Debris scattered around the immediate area, damaging buildings up to 75 yards away. The explosion was reportedly felt in the next town of Wyoming.

David Lamoreaux was in his garage when his house exploded. McNeil said David Lamoreaux was listed in critical condition at Lehigh Valley Medical Center’s burn unit on Monday.

More people could have been seriously injured.

“I consider all residents of Exeter Borough very lucky right now due to the percussion of the explosion,” McNeil said.

Debbie Hetro said the blast damaged her mother’s home at 61-63 Penn Ave., smashing two large front windows, bedroom windows and knocking items off bedroom walls.

“The force of the blast knocked the windows out,” Hetro said. “The windows were not latched, which was a good thing, because they blew in.

“We’re seeing more and more damage. There’s cracks in the walls, and nails coming out of the walls in the bedrooms. It looked like a war zone here on Saturday.”

Hetro said her mother, Elizabeth Tocheny, usually sits on her front porch with her dog, Precious. Tocheny left her house about 15 minutes before the explosion to run some errands.

“She’s very lucky she wasn’t out here,” Hetro said.

McNeil said two women, who weren’t identified, suffered leg injuries.

A crew from the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority was using a camera to inspect sewer lines on Penn Avenue and Memorial Street on Monday. Telephone and cable companies were also in the area restoring service.

An electrical box believed from the Lamoreaux home was found hanging in a tree in front of 66 Penn Ave., about 50 yards from the leveled home.

Deborah Lamoreaux and her two daughters, April and Ashley, were not home at the time of the explosion.

McNeil said there will be a meeting sometime this week with investigators, state police deputy fire marshal Trooper Ronald Jarocha and the District Attorney’s Office to determine if charges will be filed.

Penn Avenue from U.S. Route 11 to Susquehanna Avenue, and Memorial Street from Lincoln Street to Erie Street, remained closed on Monday.

Financial assistance in the form of low-interest loans might be offered to property owners who experienced damage in the explosion.

Emergency management officials from Luzerne County and Pennsylvania will conduct a preliminary damage assessment today, from 2 to 7 p.m., at the Exeter Borough Ambulance Building, 1091 Wyoming Ave.

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