Man dies before going to trial [Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.]
Republican Herald (Pottsville, PA)
Jun. 14—POTTSVILLE — An arson trial scheduled for the current Schuylkill County criminal court term will not be held because the accused died earlier this year.
Felix Bermejo II, 29, formerly of 322 W. Penn St., was scheduled to stand trial on one felony count each of arson-endangering persons, arson-endangering property, causing or risking a catastrophe and insurance fraud, along with a misdemeanor count of recklessly endangering another person.
Schuylkill County District Attorney Michael A. O'Pake said that Bermejo died on May 9 and charges against him were dismissed by an order of the court on May 13.
O'Pake said his office originally offered Bermejo a prison sentence of four to 12 years on the charges and, based on minimum sentencing guidelines, he faced 36 to 54 months in prison if found guilty at trial.
"What we offered him was slightly above the sentencing guidelines," O'Pake said.
If found guilty of the charges in a trial, the district attorney said Bermejo could have faced a maximum sentence of 59 years in a state correctional institution.
"He knew he faced an extended amount of prison time," O'Pake said.
Bermejo was arrested by former Shenandoah police Lt. William Moyer and charged with setting the fire at the 322 W. Penn St. home he was living in around 8:40 p.m.Jan. 18, 2021.
Moyer said firefighters were called for a report of a house fire and found flames in the basement and smoke coming from other areas of the home. He said firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, keeping the damage confined to the home where it started.
Moyer said a subsequent investigation with the assistance of state police fire investigators Trooper John Burns and Trooper Joseph Hall determined the fire was intentionally set on a sofa located to the rear of the basement.
Moyer said he and borough Fire Marshal Richard Examitas met with Bermejo, who explained that he just obtained a $50,000 insurance policy on the home and that he was not home when the fire started.
The lieutenant said Bermejo installed security cameras inside his home that were sent to the FBI for analysis. That analysis showed the man inside the basement of the home just after 8:30 p.m. the day of the fire.
The cameras also showed Bermejo opening the back basement door and fire behind him. The man can also be seen adding something to the fire, exiting through the back door and shutting the door behind him, Moyer said.
In a subsequent interview, Moyer said, Bermejo was asked what he thought caused the fire, replying that an insurance investigator thought it was caused by a problem with a wire to the back baseboard heater.
Moyer said that when confronted with the video, Bermejo said he could have exited the home through the back door but did not see any fire or smoke as he left.
Bermejo was free on bail pending further court action at the time of his death.
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