Mental health patient to stand trial for Shadyside arson

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A former resident of a Shadyside mental health group home was held for court today on charges he lit towels and tossed them onto the roof of a neighboring home, starting a blaze that injured three firefighters.

James Casson, 19, initially told investigators he was a "hero" because he helped alert people to the fire, but a witness told police he spotted Mr. Casson tossing flaming towels onto the building at 920 Maryland Ave. on Sept. 17, 2012.

That building is next to a home owned by Residential Care Services Inc., which housed eight people with various mental illnesses at the time, including Mr. Casson.

Three firefighters -- Jeffrey Loeffert, Ben Soyvak and Keith Ott -- were treated for burns they sustained during what is known as a "flashover," when items inside the building heated to more than 1,100 degrees and simultaneously ignited.

Mr. Casson faces a Dec. 16 formal arraignment on charges of risking a catastrophe, arson, recklessly endangering another person and criminal mischief.


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