JOHNSONBURG – Four Clearfield residents were charged on Wednesday in connection with an arson that occurred in July of 2019 in Johnsonburg, Elk County.
Joshua J. Quigley, 41, Ray E. Morgan Jr., 28, Samantha J. Weber, 23, and Alisha Goodrow, 22, were charged by Johnsonburg Borough police through the office of Magisterial District Judge James L. Martin.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, at approximately 3:03 a.m. July 15, 2019, Officer Stefan Smith received a report about a possible structure fire at a residence in the 600 block of Penn St., in Johnsonburg.
Upon arrival on-scene, Smith observed heavy smoke coming from the second-story windows. Witnesses said they thought the residence was vacant but had recently noticed individuals moving items in.
When the officer entered the first floor, it was filled with smoke with zero visibility. He called out to see if anyone occupied the residence but received no response. The officer then closed the front door to limit ventilation to the fire and secured the structure.
Outside the basement area on the rear side of the residence, investigators discovered two, 20-pound propane tanks and a white-colored plastic bucket where flames were visible; this was later determined to be the origin of the fire.
Crews from the Johnsonburg Volunteer Fire Department and the surrounding areas responded to the scene and extinguished the fire. Afterwards, investigators took photos of the rear basement area.
On-scene the caller told Smith she smelled smoke and reported the odor to 911. Before this, she said she heard what sounded like a car door shut outside; other witnesses confirmed they’d seen individuals moving items into the residence.
Witnesses said they’d seen two males move in appliances and furniture within a couple of days to a week before the incident. One witness said they’d also seen a gold-colored Chevrolet Cavalier at the residence multiple times.
On one occasion, they said a female exited the vehicle, then entered the residence for a short period of time. The witness said there was visible damage to one side, and the vehicle had black rims on the front.
Later July 15, 2019, police returned to the scene to assist Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal Russell Stewart. The trooper reportedly determined the fire started on the rear basement wall, and the cause of the fire was ruled arson.
From the wall on the west side of the residence, the fire reportedly spread through the basement, then traveled up the wall into the kitchen on the first floor and ultimately the second floor. Stewart estimated the fire caused $150,000 worth of damage.
Upon further investigation, it was learned that Quigley was the owner of the property and police spoke with him by phone July 16, 2019. He was aware of the fire but said he didn’t know the extent of the damage.
Quigley said he purchased the residence May 22, 2019 for $9,500 through a realtor. When asked, he thought he had homeowner’s insurance but wasn’t positive because he’d missed a payment; he was also unable to provide any insurance information at the time.
He said the residence had electric, but all the other utilities were shut off, and he was last there July 14, 2019, between the hours of 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., to pick up tools he needed for work the next day.
He said his girlfriend, Weber, was also with him and they were in her Chevrolet Cavalier. He said he hadn’t been at the residence since that time, and he hasn’t given anyone permission to be there.
Quigley said he’d been moving personal property into the residence over the past month or so. He later called police back to inform the house was insured through Homesite Insurance Co., of the Midwest.
When asked for his policy amount, he reportedly commented: “Holy crap, I have it insured for $214,000.” Afterwards, he claimed he didn’t realize that, and police noted that Quigley never asked where, when or how his house caught fire.
On July 17, 2019, Smith contacted the insurance company and the large loss officer indicated Quigley had filed a claim the day before due to a fire that damaged his Penn Street residence.
The same day, police also reviewed surveillance video, which showed a light-colored older model Chevrolet Cavalier traveling north on Market Street at 2 a.m. July 15, 2019. The vehicle matched the description provided by witnesses at the scene.
The vehicle stopped at the intersection of Market and Bridge streets, then it turned right onto Bridge Street in the direction of Penn Street.
The same vehicle was observed again at 2:41 a.m. traveling down Bridge Street, and it was last seen heading towards Center Street. It was noted that Elk County Control dispatched emergency responders to the structure fire at 3:03 a.m.
On July 22, 2019, police obtained surveillance from Sheetz, which showed the suspect vehicle being parked at 1:35 a.m. on July 15, 2019. Four individuals exited and entered the store; through investigation, they were identified as Morgan, Goodrow, Quigley and Weber.
At 1:47 a.m., the video showed the suspects entering the vehicle, exiting the parking lot at 1:49 a.m. and traveling toward Johnsonburg.
Smith also viewed surveillance from outside the Johnsonburg Water Authority, which showed the suspect vehicle turning right from Market Street onto Bridge Street and proceeding toward Penn Street at 2:04 a.m. July 15, 2019.
Then, at 2:38 a.m., it showed the same vehicle traveling down Bridge Street toward Market Street. It reportedly stopped at the intersection of Market and Bridge streets, where it backed into an on-street parking space across from the water authority.
While the vehicle was parked at this location, there were only three occupants. At 2:44 a.m., Quigley was observed walking down the alleyway that runs parallel between the 600 blocks of Market and Penn streets, and directly behind Quigley’s residence.
Quigley was observed entering the suspect vehicle on the rear driver’s side, and it proceeded down Bridge Street. It exited from view at 2:45 a.m., which put Quigley at the scene 16 minutes before the fire was reported to 911, according to the affidavit.
On July 23, 2019, police spoke with Quigley by phone and he gave verbal consent to search his property for accelerants with the assistance of a K-9 unit.
Smith and K-9 handler Tim Hughes of the Altoona Fire Department returned to the scene with K-9, Tyra, which is trained to detect petroleum-based solutions that are commonly-used as accelerants to fuel fires.
In the bottom level, K-9 Tyra reportedly alerted by sitting and lying down several times by the west basement wall, which investigators believed was the origin of the fire.
In a front room of the house, Tyra alerted in the area of the right side, rear of the couch. Outside at the burned portion of the basement wall, the K-9 alerted again, police said.
Over the next several weeks, police spoke with Quigley and Weber via phone to schedule interviews. It was noted that Quigley failed to show on two occasions, but appeared Aug. 16, 2019.
In his statement, Quigley said he and Weber went to his residence on July 14, 2019. He said they left Clearfield around 8 p.m. and arrived in Johnsonburg around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.
He said he went inside the residence long enough to retrieve his toolbox from the kitchen, then left. He said they took Weber’s car, which she parked up the street from his house along Penn Street and she stayed in the vehicle.
Quigley said only he has a key for the residence, and he believed that he locked his front door behind him, but he wasn’t certain. He believed that his basement door was locked, as well.
While briefly inside, he said he didn’t smell any smoke or something burning, didn’t leave any candles burning and he didn’t believe anything electric was even in use.
He said he had plans to remodel and eventually move into the house, but he hadn’t started any work other than tearing out the kitchen cabinets.
Quigley claimed that he left the residence no later than 10:30 p.m. July 14, 2019 and didn’t return until several days after the fire.
On Sept. 6, 2019, police interviewed Weber and her statement closely resembled that of Quigley until she was confronted with video evidence, then she reportedly admitted that Quigley asked her to lie.
She said he specifically told her to tell police that only they went to the house on the day in question, and to leave out Morgan and Goodrow. She said he also told her what times to provide to police.
Weber denied having any direct knowledge of Quigley setting the fire, but reportedly admitted she was suspicious of him. She said she’d been living with him and he collected insurance money for hotels and other living expenses.
It was noted that police attempted to contact Morgan and Goodrow with regards to the arson investigation on several occasions but were unsuccessful.
On Feb. 20, police were able to interview Morgan and he reportedly admitted to driving Weber’s vehicle to Quigley’s residence around 2 a.m. July 15, 2019, and that Quigley, Weber and Goodrow were all there.
He said he parked on Penn Street and all four of them entered the residence. He said he and Quigley went downstairs to the basement where he observed charring and black soot on the back of the door and in the stairwell.
Morgan said he also noticed this on the basement walls and floor joists along with a partially burned couch. He said he asked Quigley if there had been a basement fire before he purchased the house, but Quigley didn’t respond.
He said he went back upstairs but Quigley remained in the basement alone for about five to 10 minutes. He said when Quigley came back upstairs, he told them to take the car and park it up the street at the four-way intersection.
Morgan said about five to 10 minutes later, Quigley entered the rear driver’s side and commented, “We’re all good. Let’s go.” He said he saw smoke in the rearview mirror, as they left Johnsonburg and heard the fire whistles, which made him suspect Quigley set his house on fire.
On March 2, police received documentation on Quigley’s insurance claim through Homesite Insurance Co. Records showed that Quigley filed a claim for his fire loss July 16, 2019, and that he was paid $21,117.36.
Quigley used the money for temporary housing, food and additional living expenses, police said, adding that the insurance company stopped all payments to Quigley on Feb. 4 and denied his claim following their investigation.
Quigley was charged with felony arson-danger of death or bodily injury; conspiracy/arson- danger of death or bodily injury; arson-intent to collect insurance; conspiracy/arson-intent to collect insurance; false, fraud or incomplete insurance claim; conspiracy-false, fraud or incomplete insurance claim and risking catastrophe; misdemeanor false report and recklessly endangering another person; and one summary.
Morgan was charged with felony conspiracy/arson-danger of death or bodily injury; conspiracy/arson-intent to collect insurance; conspiracy-false, fraud or incomplete insurance claim and conspiracy/risking catastrophe and misdemeanor conspiracy/recklessly endangering another person.
Weber was charged with felony conspiracy/arson-danger of death or bodily injury; conspiracy/arson-intent to collect insurance; conspiracy-false, fraud or incomplete insurance claim and conspiracy/risking catastrophe and misdemeanor conspiracy/recklessly endangering another person and conspiracy/false report.
Goodrow was charged with felony conspiracy/arson-danger of death or bodily injury; conspiracy/arson-intent to collect insurance; conspiracy-false, fraud or incomplete insurance claim and conspiracy/risking catastrophe and misdemeanor conspiracy/recklessly endangering another person.
Quigley is currently in Clearfield County Jail facing charges in a Clearfield County burglary case, while Weber is being held on these charges in the Elk County Prison in lieu of $25,000 bail.
Online court documents indicate that Quigley, Morgan and Weber are scheduled to appear for preliminary hearings March 18.