Appeal, No. 379, Jan. T., 1962, from order of Court of Oyer and Terminer and Quarter Sessions of the Peace of Philadelphia County, May T., 1960, Nos. 688 to 694, inclusive, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Cockfield. Order reversed; reargument refused June 3, 1963.
Arlen Specter, Assistant District Attorney, with him Louis F. McCabe, Assistant District Attorney, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Jr., First Assistant District Attorney, and James C. Crumlish, Jr., District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellant.
Cecil B. Moore, for appellee.
Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and O'brien, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BENJAMIN R. JONES
The basic question raised upon this appeal is whether the search of an automobile and the seizure of some of the contents of the trunk of that automobile were incidental to a concededly valid arrest.
In the early morning of April 7, 1960, a dwelling house, located on North Frazier Street, Philadelphia and occupied by a Mrs. Quattlebaum (the deceased) and her two small children, was destroyed by fire and its occupants burned to death. While the fire was still burning, Detective Raifer went to the scene of the fire where he learned that "the fire had probably been caused by an accelerant."
While at the scene of the fire, Detective Raifer, having learned that the deceased had recently been having difficulties with a "boy friend", known as
"Bill", interrogated a Miss Planet, the deceased's next door neighbor. Miss Planet identified "Bill" as Charles Cockfield, a resident of the "200 block" of South Alden Street. She told the police officer that Cockfield had exhibited "a pattern and action of violence" and, on one occasion, had put a knife to the deceased's throat; that the deceased had received threatening letters from Cockfield which Miss Planet had seen; that deceased's dwelling house had previously had a fire of unknown origin.
Acting upon this information, Detective Raifer went to Cockfield's home on South Alden Street but was unable to secure admission. Leaving other officers to maintain a surveillance of Cockfield's home, Detective Raifer, through his superior officer, ascertained that Cockfield was the registered owner of a 1953 Dodge automobile and, about 5:30 a.m., April 7th, this automobile, its motor still warm, was located about three-quarters of a block from Cockfield's home. Detective Raifer examined the automobile and its glove compartment and kept the automobile under surveillance until about 8:15 a.m. on that date, at which time the car trunk was examined and, in addition to tools, a fruit basket and construction paraphernalia, there was found a "two gallon Gulf, blue and orange ... gasoline can that was lying on its side" and under it "... a wet spot on top of the fruit basket ... which smelled like gasoline" together with "a roll of sort of pale, green toilet paper, and, on the edge of the roll, itself, there were charred marks, charred as if from fire." The trunk was then closed and its contents left undisturbed.
Thereafter, the Cockfield automobile was removed by the police and placed in front of a nearby police precinct station where its distributor cap was removed and certain wires disconnected. All police districts were notified to report any inquiry ...