Police: Woman set Unity home on fire over pain pills
UNITY, Pa. —
State police allege a former Unity woman became so angry at her husband when he wouldn’t share his pain medication with her that she intentionally set the family’s mobile home on fire, killing two dogs.
Barbara A. Smith, 50, who now lives at 532 W. Newton St., Greensburg, was charged by a state police fire marshal with arson, reckless endangerment and animal cruelty in connection with the Jan. 17 blaze that extensively damaged the mobile home at 1129 Puritan Ave., near Youngstown.
Firefighters responded to the blaze at the residence of Barbara and Jonathan Smith about 7:20 p.m., according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by state police fire marshal Kevin Karwatsky.
Barbara Smith was the only one at home and escaped the burning mobile home unharmed. According to the affidavit, Smith told firefighters that she suspected the fire began when she left a cigarette burning in a rear bedroom.
However, Karwatsky said Jonathan Smith arrived home a short time later and told authorities the couple had been “arguing via cellphone and text messages, and (Barbara) Smith told her husband she was going to burn the mobile home.”
Assistant Youngstown fire Chief Daniel Bald then called in Karwatsky to investigate.
Karwatsky said he discovered the fire was intentionally started in the rear bedroom by an open flame applied to unspecified combustibles on the floor.
“During my investigation, I observed two dead dogs in the living room. One was inside a dog crate, and the other inside a garbage bag on the top of the crate,” Karwatsky wrote.
Karwatsky said he interviewed Jonathan Smith, who said the couple had been arguing because Barbara Smith “was out of her own medication and wanted some of Jonathan Smith’s pills.”
“Jonathan refused to share his pills with her, so she told him she was going to burn the mobile home,” Karwatsky said.
Karwatsky obtained several text messages between the couple, sent within an hour of the fire, in which Barbara Smith threatens to harm herself.
The couple’s 23-year-old son, Julian, told Karwatsky during an interview that his mother had telephoned and texted him that “(Barbara) Smith was going to burn the mobile home.”
Karwatsky said he obtained a text message from Julian Smith’s telephone stating that his mother was going to put Julian’s other cell phone in the freezer “so it will be OK. ... I love you with all my heart. ... Bye.”
When Karwatsky interviewed Barbara Smith again two days after the fire, she denied intentionally setting it, again claiming that she left a burning cigarette unattended. Karwatsky wrote that Barbara Smith admitted that she had argued with her husband over the pills.
Karwatsky said he returned to the burned mobile home on Jan. 19 and discovered a handwritten letter that Barbara Smith purportedly left for her husband in the freezer that day.
A portion of the letter says, “You are the reason I am giving up life, Jonathan ...”.
Attempts to reach Barbara Smith for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.
Smith’s hearing is scheduled Oct. 1 before Unity District Judge Michael Mahady.
Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.