Knappenberger pleads not guilty in arson case

A Warren man charged with attempted homicide in the wake of a December house fire in Sugar Grove Township has pled not guilty.

Jackson K. Knappenberger, 25, of E. Third Ave., Warren, is charged with seven counts of criminal attempt — criminal homicide; seven counts of criminal attempt — aggravated assault; arson — danger of death or bodily injury; five counts of endangering the welfare of children; seven counts of recklessly endangering another person; and one count of retaliation.

The procedural plea was entered before Judge Gregory Hammond on Thursday morning.

According to Pennsylvania State Police, Knappenberger was angry at a woman with whom he is “romantically involved” who lives at the Wilson Road address for “not picking him up.”

He allegedly brought a mixture of oil and gasoline in a plastic bag to the residence in December, poured it on the porch, set fire to it, and ran.

“The defendant’s boots fell off his person as he was running from the scene,” police said. One of the victims — there were seven people, including five children, inside at the time of the incident — identified the boots as Knappenberger’s and police started looking for him.

“I observed a male that fit the description of the suspect,” police wrote in the affidavit of probable cause. “The suspect was wearing a brown coat as described, he was not wearing shoes of any sort, and his clothes were muddy.”

Barefoot, muddy, and smelling strongly of gasoline, Knappenberger allegedly told police he had started the fire, knew the residence was occupied, and was trying to frighten one or more of the people inside.

District Justice Todd Woodin used the dangerous nature of the incident and the connection to another case to deny bail.

“Given the heinous nature of the alleged facts, arson with seven persons present, if proven, would tend to demonstrate that defendant, at a minimum, bears an extreme indifference to the value of human life and that defendant is an extremely desperate individual unlikely to comply with bail conditions,” Woodin wrote. “No condition or combination of bail conditions, other than imprisonment, will reasonably assure the safety of the community.”

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