Judge Orders Man To Trial For Arson In Scranton

February 8, 2019

SCRANTON — A district judge found sufficient evidence today to send a Bethlehem man to trial on charges he set fire to a Scranton apartment building nearly one year ago.

Jody Tighe, 39, 256 North St., is accused of dousing the back porch of 640 Willow St. with gasoline and setting it ablaze Feb. 19.

In total, 10 people lost their home before dawn that morning, including Scranton police Officer Jamie Smith. Of those, seven were home and safely got out as the fire spread.

“Chief, we can see it from here,” firefighters radioed as they raced to the scene, Assistant Fire Chief Jim Floryshak testified.

At the end of the two-hour-plus preliminary hearing, Tighe’s attorney, Paul Ackourey, argued the Lackawanna County district attorney’s office made the case that an arson fire likely occurred but they relied entirely on hearsay to name Tighe as the arsonist.

Deputy District Attorney Brian Gallagher said that they also have DNA evidence and text messages showing Tighe set the fire.

“We did buttress our case with 36 exhibits,” Gallagher said.

Detectives believe that Tighe set the fire as retaliation against a rival love interest who lived in the building. Inspector Martin Monahan, Scranton’s fire marshal, testified about text messages exchanged between Tighe and his girlfriend, which allude to infidelity.

“I know you’re sleeping with him,” part of one text message read.

DNA recovered from a gasoline-soaked scarf found near the apartment building ended up matching Tighe’s, police said.

Fire Prevention Officer Shaun Flynn testified that he concluded the fire had been set using gasoline.

Firefighter Tim O’Connor got lost inside the building and became trapped while the fire raged. He called “mayday” and was rescued, Floryshak testified. Another firefighter, Robert Gavern, injured his back, shoulder and leg.

The intensity of the fire forced Floryshak to call a second alarm and bring every available firefighter to the scene. That meant that Dunmore’s fire department had to respond to a truck fire roughly 10 minutes later on Interstate 81 a few miles away. Tighe was there and called 911 to report it, Ackourey said.

Ackourey said that Tighe’s presence at the I-81 scene calls into question his ability to set the fire on Willow Street. He couldn’t get there in time.

“That’s cutting it close,” Ackourey said.

Gallagher argued that Tighe had plenty of time.

Magisterial District Judge Paul J. Ware also heard testimony from Monahan that surveillance video captured near the fire scene shows a man carrying something while walking toward the building. At 2:42 a.m., the man, whom police believe is Tighe, is seen running from the scene with his left shoe and lower leg on fire.

Tighe had burns on his leg and needed a skin graft.

Ware bound over all charges, which include aggravated arson and numerous other arson-related offenses.

A pretrial conference is scheduled next month.

Contact the writer: jkohut@timesshamrock.com, 570-348-9144; @jkohutTT on Twitter

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