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Jeannette man awaiting arson trial now accused of homicide in another blaze

August 4, 2018

Scene from April 9, 2018, fire at rowhouses on South 7th Street in Jeannette where Shirley Kocherhans died.

A Jeannette man already charged with arson for allegedly setting fire last spring to a couch outside his apartment was arraigned Tuesday on homicide and other charges for setting the fire that killed an elderly city resident in her rowhouse.

Brian Eric Rendon, 33, is charged with second- and third-degree homicide for causing the death of Shirley Kocherans, 87. City police and county detectives also charged him with six counts of reckless endangerment in connection with the other tenants who fled the April 9 fire that destroyed the six-unit rowhouse on South 7th Street. Other charges Rendon faces include arson, aggravated arson, risking a catastrophe and causing a catastrophe.

Rendon has been held in the Westmoreland County Prison on $100,000 bond since June 22 for setting an April 7 fire outside his Railroad Street apartment. On Tuesday, District Judge Joseph DeMarchis ordered Rendon held without bond based on the new complaints.

Authorities received numerous public tips identifying Rendon after releasing a surveillance video of a man walking in the vicinity of the April 9 fire moments before it was reported about 2 p.m., according to court documents filed by city police officer Frank Balistreri and county detectives John Clark and Nick Caesar. The investigators reported that Rendon has been interviewed numerous times since his June 22 arrest and admitted the arson.

“Rendon advised that he started the fire between the back porches (of the townhouses) by using a lighter and deodorant spray can like a torch,” investigators reported.

Kocherans’ granddaughter, Jillian Anastasiu, fled the burning building by dropping from a second-floor window, police said. She suffered burns and injuries that kept her hospitalized “for several weeks” after the fire, police said.

“Rendon went on to say that he did not call 911 after setting the fire or attempt to alert anyone there was a fire,” investigators reported.

DeMarchis scheduled Rendon’s hearing for Aug. 9.

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