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COMMONWEALTH v. GEORGE (07/21/55)

July 21, 1955

COMMONWEALTH
v.
GEORGE, APPELLANT.



Appeals, Nos. 102 and 103, Oct. T., 1955, from judgment of Court of Oyer & Terminer of Northumberland County, May T., 1952, Nos. 4 and 5, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. James George. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Ralph M. Bashore, with him John L. Pipa, Jr., for appellant.

Harold F. Bonno, District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Ross, Gunther, Wright, Woodside and Ervin, JJ. (hirt, J., absent).

Author: Wright

[ 178 Pa. Super. Page 263]

OPINION BY WRIGHT, J.

James George was tried in the Court of Oyer and Terminer of Northumberland County on bills of indictment Nos. 4 and 5 May Term 1952, charging respectively arson and burning to defraud an insurer.

[ 178 Pa. Super. Page 264]

After a verdict of guilty, motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial were refused by the lower Court. Sentence was imposed and this appeal followed. It will be necessary to go into considerable detail in order to discuss the eight questions which appellant has raised.

The record discloses that on or about October 1, 1949, appellant and Frank Kaskie purchased from the Shamokin Baking Company a frame and concrete block bakery and garage building, with stock, equipment and machinery. The building was located at the corner of Pearl and Pine Streets in the City of Shamokin, in a closely built-up residential area. The total consideration for the purchase was $23,500, of which $17,000 was paid for the real estate and $6,500 for the stock, equipment and machinery. Appellant's share in the investment was $7,000. At the time of the purchase the equipment was at least 15 years old, and no new equipment was added thereafter. A first mortgage of $8,000 was acquired from a local bank, and a second mortgage of $4,600 was held by the vendor. At the time of the purchase there was insurance on the building in the amount of $10,000, and on the personal property in the amount of $5,000. Kaskie conducted the business for appellant and himself from the date of purchase until May, 1951, when the business was discontinued and the building closed. Subsequently an attempt was made to sell the building, but the best offer received was only $12,000, which offer was refused. On August 1, 1951, appellant personally arranged and paid for additional insurance in the amount of $30,000 on the real estate, and $15,000 on the stock, equipment and machinery. At the time the additional insurance was purchased, the total amount due on the two mortgages was $9,650.

[ 178 Pa. Super. Page 265]

According to appellant's testimony, on the night of August 23, 1951, he visited his partner, Kaskie, at the latter's place of business in Shenandoah, to discuss the problems of the bakery business. He testified that Kaskie told him that someone was stealing things from the bakery and suggested that appellant go to Shamokin to see for himself. Kaskie further suggested that appellant visit the building early in the morning when no one was around. After leaving Kaskie, appellant went to Pottsville where he conducted a restaurant. After a brief rest, appellant relieved his bartender until the restaurant closed, about 2:00 a.m. in the morning of August 24. Appellant then drove to the bakery in Shamokin. Arriving there, he parked in the street a few feet from the main entrance. A light was burning in the bakery when he entered. He inspected the first floor and garage and then decided to go to the second floor. He had a flashlight with him which proved to be defective. He was unable to find the light switch and, while looking for the light in the dark, he bumped into a barrel containing flour, knocking it over. He then struck a match when there was, as he described it, a "boom", flames came into his face and something knocked him down. He screamed, ran to a back door (which was kept open in the summer time) and jumped to the ground. Although badly burned about the face and hands, and although his building was then on fire, he got in his car and drove the thirty miles back to Pottsville. Two women, awakened by the explosion, were standing on the porch across the street, about 13 feet away, and saw appellant leave the building.

After appellant arrived in Pottsville, about 4:30 a.m., he called a friend, Harry Thompson, and asked him to come to the restaurant. He told Thompson that he had ...


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